No bail for accused with 260 convictions


A Ballymena man allegedly heard encouraging others to shave the head of a sleeping woman, whose hair had already been set alight, has failed in his bid to get Crown Court bail.

Judge Donna McColgan QC told 42-year-old Paul Joshua Balmer that in spite of “the valiant efforts” of his defence barrister, she was refusing him bail.

Balmer, whose address was given care of Maghaberry Prison, denies three charges, two of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and one of assault, all between May 17 and 23 last year.

The court also heard that Balmer has over 260 convictions, was on bail at the time of the attack, had breached 34 previous court orders, and escaped from custody three times.

Prosecution lawyer Neil Connor claimed police identified Balmer’s voice from mobile phone footage of the woman, who was in a drunken sleep, being assaulted by him and three others. Balmer, he said, could be heard telling the others: “Get a razor, everybody take a turn ... there’s no point being easy on her”.

Balmer, was then allegedly heard adding: “Get a hatchet ... no point doing a bad haircut”. Mr Connor said what was all the more disturbing was the fact all could be heard laughing at their sleeping victim. To add further insult to injury the woman’s hair was also set on fire and her face drawn on with a black marker.

Mr Connor said that in addition to the evidence of police recognition of Balmer’s voice, he could also be linked to his co-accused, who have already pleaded guilty to what was described as a quite violent assault.

Bail, he said, was opposed because of the threat of further offending and the possibility of failing to turn up for his trial in September.

Defence lawyer Aaron Thompson said Balmer had been in custody for over a year now, and despite police objections, his mother was willing to provide the Ballymena man with an address outside the Co Antrim town. He added that one option open to the court was for Balmer to be tagged as he had not been subject to such a bail restriction before.

Mr Thompson said Balmer had had a pernicious drug problem which he had been tackling in prison and that further treatment programmes would be available to him in the community if granted bail.

However, Judge McColgan, sitting in Antrim, said given the seriousness of the case, the fact Balmer had breached various other court orders, and was already on bail at the time of the assaults, she was refusing his application.