Belfast Telegraph

Murder suspect has his bail curfew eased so he can take up seasonal job

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man suspected of involvement in the murder of Christopher Meli has had his bail conditions varied to allow him to work for a month.

Lee Smyth was granted bail after spending time on remand for several offences arising from the killing of Mr Meli (20), who was beaten to death on December 12, 2015.

His body was found on a pathway in Twinbrook, west Belfast, after he was attacked by a crowd of people, one of whom the Crown claims was Smyth.

The 21-year-old, who is currently living at a bail address outside Belfast, was placed under strict conditions as part of his bail, including obeying a 7pm to 7am curfew.

He was back in court yesterday, where his legal team asked that the curfew be removed to enable him to take up seasonal employment.

Belfast Crown Court heard Smyth has been offered employment consisting of 12-hour shifts, from 10.15pm to 10.15am, from November 26 to December 24.

Smyth's solicitor Mark Austin asked that the curfew condition be completely removed as "to have him curfewed after completing a 12-hour shift isn't necessary".

A prosecutor objected to the curfew being removed, adding it was the Crown's view that Smyth was part of a group that attacked Mr Meli and has been returned for trial with others.

Telling Mr Justice Colton that Smyth had a "lengthy history of bail applications", the prosecuting barrister said that since he had been granted bail, there had been a "plethora of incidents and breaches of bail that had to be dealt with by the court".

These breaches, the barrister revealed, included "all manner of issues" including being found drunk, being caught with drugs and incidents of trouble at his bail address.

Objecting to the curfew being removed entirely, the prosecutor said that while the Crown "didn't want to stand in the way of someone securing employment", the application was set against a backdrop of bail breaches.

The prosecutor did, however, say that if the court was minded to consider the application, any variation "should be limited".

Defence solicitor Mark Austin said that while it was accepted there have been "difficulties in the past", he questioned whether Smyth should work a 12-hour shift and then be "expected to observe a curfew".

After listening to submissions, Mr Justice Colton said: "It seems to me it is right that the court should vary the times of the applicant's bail to allow him to pick up the offer of employment."

The judge said he would relax the times of curfew from 7pm to 9pm on the days when Smyth is working. On the days he is not working, the curfew remains from 7pm to 7am.

Belfast Telegraph

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