Three west Belfast men were in court yesterday charged with stealing a JCB digger and trailer worth £20,000.
Standing side by side at the back of Lisburn Magistrates Court, Damien Rush (28), Robert Braniff (34) and Patrick McGowan (49) confirmed they understood the single charge against them.
Rush, from Balkan Street; Braniff, from the Ballymurphy Road, and McGowan, from Brittons Parade, are accused of stealing the JCB digger and Ivor Williams trailer from the Knockbracken estate on March 23, 2017.
None of the facts surrounding the charge were opened in court but during a short preliminary enquiry, the legal process necessary to refer a case upwards to the Crown Court, a prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a case to answer.
The defence lawyers conceded there was a prima facie case against their clients, who declined the opportunity to comment or to call evidence.
Applying for legal aid, one defence lawyer said the charge was "particularly significant given the current media attention" and revealed there would be "forensic issues" to deal with at the trial.
Freeing the three accused on their own bail of £500 and granting legal aid for one counsel, Deputy District Judge Sean O'Hare ordered them to appear at Craigavon Crown Court for their arraignment on June 4.