Pensioner facing historic sex abuse charges granted bail to return to England
A pensioner facing historic sex abuse charges has been granted bail to return to England after it emerged that he had spent an "unnecessary" month in Maghaberry.
Jonathan Martin Murray-Lacey is set to stand trial in Belfast Crown Court later this year on allegations of sexual abuse carried out in this jurisdiction in the early to mid 80s.
The 65-year old, whose address was given as Clanfield Way in London, is currently the subject of a Mental Health Order in England and lives in a residential care home supporting people with mental health issues.
Murray-Lacey was ordered to travel from England to Belfast last month as a date was set for his trial. On this occasion, his travel costs were covered by the care home.
However, when the trial didn't go ahead Lacey was remanded into custody and remained in Maghaberry for over a month.
Murray-Lacey's legal team launched a bail application earlier today which was granted by Judge Patricia Smyth, who warned that she would take a "very dim view" if he failed to return to Northern Ireland for his trial, which is now expected to start in May.
He is due to be released from Maghaberry this week.
Prior to granting the application, Judge Smyth was told by Crown prosecutor Kate McKay that while funds were in place to enable Murray-Lacey to travel when his trial was listed last month, there were currently "no means of getting him back to England."
Ms McKay said that whilst "potentially" Murray-Lacey could be released from Maghaberry and could make his way on his own to the Liverpool ferry, this was not ideal. The prosecutor told the court: "The difficulties police have is they are concerned he will not come back for his trial in May."
She also revealed that the care home "cannot fund leaving him back over, like they did the last time, and that's where we are at the minute. It's a bit of a dilemma."
Accepting the current issue arose because Murray-Lacey's trial didn't go ahead when it was scheduled to, she spoke of concerns of a risk of flight as a bench warrant was issued in the past.
Murray-Lacey's barrister Kelly Doherty said that the month her client has spent in Maghaberry was "unnecessary", adding his time in custody was not due to him presenting a risk.
Explaining Murray-Lacey has Bi-polar Affective Disorder and is the subject of a Commmunity Treatment Order under the English Mental Health Act, Ms Doherty said that if he doesn't go back to the care home, he "will be returned to hospital."
Telling the court "we need to find a way to get this man back", Judge Smyth granted bail and ordered that the police liaise with Murray-Lacey's solicitor before his release from prison.
Judge Smyth also ordered that Murray-Lacey return to Maghaberry four days prior to his trial, and he will remain in custody for the duration of the case.
Addressing Murray-Lacey, Judge Smyth said she was granting bail but told him he had to come back to Northern Ireland for his trial in May.
The judge said: "If you do not return, I will take a very dim view of that and you will not be given a second chance."
Belfast Telegraph Digital