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No laughing matter for quartet sent to court cells

Four men spent two-and-a-half hours in custody yesterday after sniggering at a judge's warning when a mobile telephone rang in court.

When the call came through yesterday morning at the Magistrates Court in Londonderry, District Judge Barney McElholm warned that if another phone was heard its owner would be "in contempt of court".

Four men, who were sitting in the public gallery in courtroom 4 of the Bishop Street courthouse, were seen to snigger after Mr McElholm's comment.

He immediately pointed to them from the bench and ordered prison staff to "take them down to the cells".

As they were taken into temporary custody, two of the men protested their innocence.

But they were warned by the District Judge that "the longer it takes you to get down to the cells the longer you will be there".

At 1.15pm the four men were brought up from the cells and placed in the dock before Mr McElholm.

"They were not detained because their phone rang, but because these gentlemen seemed to take mirth out of my comments," he said.

After all four apologised to him the District Judge said "well, we will leave it at that", before releasing them from custody.

Belfast Telegraph