Branches of the criminal justice system have explained how a man accused of murdering Adrian Ismay was bailed three times, including releasing him twice after alleged breaches of the original bail terms.
The News Letter asked the various organisations about the decisions in the case of Christopher Robinson, 45, who was first granted bail at the High Court last Wednesday.
Both the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service have since made clear that they opposed bail and presented their case to the courts.
In the original decision, Mr Justice Colton said that Robinson was now well-known to the authorities, diminishing the risk of any possible re-offending.
On the first night of his release, he did not answer the door of his house at 2.25am on Thursday when police called. The PSNI returned to the property after 6am, arrested Robinson and brought him before the courts that day. His lawyer told a district judge: “This isn’t an issue that’s going to arise again, Mr Robinson sees how vigorously his bail conditions are going to be enforced by the authorities.”
Robinson, of Aspen Park in Dunmurry, was freed again by the district judge but that very night a security firm reported an issue with his tag. He was re-admitted to bail once more on Friday by a second district judge, Alan White, after his lawyers argued that a fall outside his home caused the tag to come loose.
His defence solicitor Padraig O Muirigh said later: “In the last 48 hours the police have arrested my client on two occasions and have been unsuccessful on both occasions in having him returned to prison.
“My client is concerned this is the start of a campaign of harassment against him while he’s on bail.”
This newspaper asked the PSNI and PPS about the case, and whether they intended to appeal the granting of bail.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said: “The PSNI has a duty to keep people safe and ensure suspected offenders are brought to justice. This means we will rigorously enforce the bail conditions set down by the courts.
“On each of the two occasions where bail conditions were breached in this case, we objected to Robinson’s further release on bail, but the decision is ultimately one for the court to make and further bail was granted.”
Mr Campbell added: “We will continue to rigorously, but impartially, enforce the bail conditions set by the courts and we will not hesitate to arrest those who breach their bail conditions so they can be brought back before the court to ensure that the court has all the necessary information to allow it to decide if continuing bail is appropriate or to remand in custody, if necessary.”
A PPS spokesperson told the News Letter said: “We presented evidence relating to an alleged breach of bail on two occasions to the court and made representations that bail should not be granted.
“On Friday the court found that bail terms had been breached but rejected the prosecution application to revoke bail.”
The spokesperson added: “The PPS gave careful consideration as to whether there were grounds to appeal this decision but decided that there was not a basis to do so.”
With both the PPS and PSNI making clear their opposition to bail being granted and supporting its revoke, we asked the courts about their decisions, including the original bailing of a murder suspect and the refusal to grant two revoke requests when bail terms were breached.
A Courts Service spokeswoman said: “Since the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1988, the judiciary are obliged to release applicants on bail unless certain circumstances are established in court.
“There is a presumption in favour of the granting of bail. Invariably, however, a judge must consider whether or not the prosecution have established a recognised risk, such as the defendant being likely to re-offend or interfere with witnesses or leave the jurisdiction.
“If such a risk is identified then the court has another step to consider. Again, this is a legal requirement.”
She added: “The court must decide if a condition or conditions might be attached to the bail to prevent the risks identified by the prosecution arising. Unless there is a risk, and no conditions may be applied to address the risk, then the judge must release the defendant.”
In the original bail hearing, Robinson’s defence counsel Sean Devine contended that he only faced a weak case and that having died 11 days after the attack of a blood clot there would be “all sort of complications about causation”.