Belfast Telegraph

Tagged serial offender out on licence was part of shop robbery gang, court is told

District Judge John Meehan refused bail (stock photo)
District Judge John Meehan refused bail (stock photo)

By Staff Reporter

A man who's out on licence following his release from a prison sentence is back in custody, charged with robbery.

The incident in Castlecaulfield, Co Tyrone, left a young girl terrified as she witnessed two armed men lift a till then flee to a waiting car.

Appearing at Dungannon Magistrates Court yesterday it emerged the accused, Patrick Bell, has repeatedly breached his licence terms, which is to be revoked imminently.

Bell (37) of Woodbourne Crescent, Dungannon, is accused of robbing shop premises on Monday. A police officer confirmed the charge could be connected.

She explained a report was received of a robbery in a Castlecaulfield shop around 10pm.

On arrival a teenager, accompanied by the shop owner, said two men entered the premises, one brandishing a crowbar and the other a screwdriver.

Both had most of their faces concealed and the girl was terrified. The men lifted the till containing just short of £845 cash, and fled to a waiting Volkswagen Passat.

The incident lasted 29 seconds and the car was found a short distance from Bell's home.

He was arrested and while in custody refused to answer questions, but provided a pre-prepared statement contending he had not been in Castlecaulfield and was subject to electronic tagging, which was not activated.

The officer said: "Police are opposed to bail as there is a high risk of reoffending given the defendant's criminal record, which show a similar MO (modus operandi).

"We also have concerns around witness interference.

"A young girl was put in fear. Two co-accused have not yet been identified - the person who entered the shop and the driver. A large amount of cash was taken and remains missing."

She added as Bell is currently subject to licence conditions, action is pending to revoke this, not only as a result of the new charge, but also for failing to keep probation appointments, failing drugs tests and curfew breaches.

Under defence cross-examination, the officer confirmed the evidence relied upon was CCTV footage, and while the robbers' faces were partially covered, their eyes, noses and mouths were visible.

She said two other officers identified Bell "by his nose".

The defence argued there is an issue over the timeframe of the incident which allegedly occurred around 10pm - the time of Bell's curfew. It was claimed if he was outside his home at that time the electronic tag would have activated. It was confirmed he was arrested at his home shortly after 10pm.

The officer said the total distance from the shop to Bell's home was six minutes.

Pointing out while his client's prison licence was facing revocation, this had not been activated and as such bail could be granted. He submitted it was "premature" to charge his client.

District Judge John Meehan refused bail.

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