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Meli murder accused Lee Smyth freed on bail again despite involvement in nine incidents


Breaches: Lee Smyth

Breaches: Lee Smyth

Breaches: Lee Smyth

A murder suspect who was involved in nine separate incidents in a four-month period after being released from a Young Offenders Centre was granted bail again yesterday.

Lee Smyth - charged along with two other co-accused of murdering west Belfast man Christopher Meli in December 2015 - was warned that any further failures to comply with bail will result in a return to prison.

Smyth (21) made a fifth application for High Court bail, and despite objections from the Crown, he was re-released to reside at an address outside Belfast which cannot be reported.

The court heard that since his return to custody following the nine incidents, Smyth was remanded to HMP Maghaberry and not Hydebank YOC, where he was initially sent.

His barrister said Smyth has found his experience in the adult prison of Maghaberry to be "frightening, worrying and depressing".

Crown prosecutor Kate McKay said that since his last release bail in April, there had been numerous breaches which resulted in Smyth being back in custody.

The last breach occurred when police called to his bail address and discovered he had broken the 'no alcohol' condition.

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Mrs McKay told Mr Justice Maguire that Smyth was one of a number of people facing charges arising from the death of Mr Meli (20), who was beaten to death on December 12, 2015. His body was found on a pathway in Twinbrook after he was attacked by a crowd of people.

The prosecutor said that on the day of the murder, Smyth voluntarily attended a police station and told officers he had been "involved in an altercation" with Mr Meli, they had fought and fallen, and others became involved and started kicking Mr Meli.

Mrs McKay said Smyth has been connected to the attack forensically as the victim's blood was found on his clothes and footwear.

Regarding the latest breaches, Mrs McKay said many of these were linked to incidents at his bail address. Revealing that due to complaints over anti-social behaviour at the flat the Housing Executive were considering "repossessing his tenancy", Mrs McKay said Smyth had breached curfew and been caught under the influence of drink.

She told the judge "for all these reasons, and until a more suitable address is found for this man, it is felt he is not a suitable applicant".

Defence barrister Tom McCreanor said his client has already spent a significant period on remand. He accepted there had been incidents but said this was largely down to "other people who are prone to partying".

Mr Justice Maguire granted bail and imposed conditions including a curfew and a drinking ban. The judge said the court would review the case in six weeks.

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