Challenge mounted to prostitution charges

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A man charged with controlling prostitutes operating in Belfast is to challenge claims he has a case to answer, a court has heard.

Catalin Vasile Manea’s lawyer confirmed he wants a hearing to test the evidence of two women he allegedly incited into the sex trade.

The 39-year-old Romanian national, of Lavinia Square in Belfast, is accused of five offences on dates between October 2013 and May 2016.

They include two counts each of causing or inciting prostitution, and controlling prostitution for gain.

He is further charged with managing a brothel being run out of a flat in the south of the city.

Manea, who denies all of the offences, appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court for an anticipated preliminary enquiry to have him returned for trial.

But defence counsel Sean Mullan instead disclosed that, following “lengthy” discussions, the case was not ready to proceed.

He told District Judge Fiona Bagnall his client intends to challenge some of the witness evidence.

Mr Mullan named the two alleged victims and the officer in charge of the investigation.

The move means that the strength of the prosecution will be scrutinised before any decision to return for Crown Court trial.

Adjourning the case to next month, Mrs Bagnall indicated that a date for that hearing will be fixed at Manea’s next appearance.

She released the accused on continuing bail.