15 March 2006

Loyalists allowed in town on bail

Daily Ireland

SDLP assembly member criticises court’s relaxation of conditions

by Ciarán Barnes

An SDLP assembly member has questioned a court’s decision to relax bail conditions imposed on two Co Antrim loyalists.
In Belfast Crown Court yesterday, a judge varied the bail conditions of Clifford Allison and Charles McCann so they could go back to live in Antrim town.
After being arrested at a PSNI checkpoint in October 2003, the pair were charged with membership of the Ulster Volunteer Force, conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm and possession of offensive weapons.
Balaclavas, iron bars and latex gloves were discovered in the car in which they were travelling. After an initial court appearance, the men were remanded in custody.
At the end of 2003, the two men were bailed, and the UVF membership charges against them were dropped.
As part of their bail conditions, they were banned from living in Antrim town. They were also ordered to observe a curfew from 11pm to 7am and report to the PSNI three times a week.
In the crown court yesterday, Mr Allison and Mr McCann successfully had their bail conditions varied so they could live again in Antrim town. Mr Allison will live at an address in Garden Village, while Mr McCann will stay at premises in Green View.
South Antrim SDLP assembly member Tommy Burns questioned the decision to allow the loyalists to return.
He said: “Mr Allison and Mr McCann are charged with very serious offences.
“The courts had good reason to ban them from living in Antrim town when they were originally bailed. I don’t see what has changed between now and then. As far as the constituents who I represent are concerned, they would have been in favour of these men being banned from living in Antrim town until their trials.”
Mr Burns voiced his concerns exactly a week after his SDLP colleague Alban Maginness questioned the easing of bail conditions imposed on the leading Belfast loyalist Ihab Shoukri.
In January, there was anger when a 38-year-old south Belfast loyalist charged with murder had his bail conditions altered so he could go on holiday to Amsterdam.
The decision to allow Stephen McFerran to travel abroad came just hours after Belfast criminal Bernard Rooney was refused leave from prison to attend his 15-year-old daughter’s funeral.
Thomas Spence, a former spokesman for loyalist prisoners in Maghaberry who is charged with extortion, had his bail conditions relaxed last September so he could celebrate his birthday. The 40-year-old previously had his bail conditions varied so he could go on holiday to Belgium.

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