Christopher Meli parents sent to cells and fined for ‘disrupting’ court

Christopher Meli was murdered in December 2015
Christopher Meli was murdered in December 2015

The grieving parents of a west Belfast man beaten to death more than two years ago were put into the cells at a court on Wednesday and fined £100 for what a judge said was “wilful disruption” of the proceedings.

Lee Smyth, 21, appeared at Craigavon Magistrates’ Court via video-link to successfully apply for bail.

Smyth, from Colinbrook Gardens in Dunmurry, was in custody accused of the murder of Christopher Meli on December 12, 2015.

Two other men, Caolan Laverty, 18, and 20-year-old Stephen McCann, both from west Belfast, are jointly charged with the murder.

The body of 20-year-old Mr Meli was discovered in Glasvey Close, Twinbrook. Detectives believe up to 20 people were involved in a number of violent incidents that ended in the murder.

During Smyth’s bail application his alleged victim’s parents Christopher Meli and Vanessa Burke initially stood at the side of the public seating area with police officers alongside.

District Judge Bernie Kelly asked them to sit down and they did.

When Smyth was granted bail, Mr Meli got up and called him a “scumbag” while Ms Burke said “you murdered my son” and “you want to see what you done to my family”.

The couple left the courtroom but Judge Kelly asked for them to be brought back and taken down to the cells, asking for a solicitors to go down and consult with them.

Around 40 minutes later the couple were brought from the cells and into the dock.

Judge Kelly said “foul and abusive language” had been used.

“I do understand the situation but nobody should have to listen to an abusive tirade,” she said.

She ruled there had been a wilful disruption of the court but said she would limit the sentence to a fine in each case.

Both were fined £100 and ordered to pay a £15 offender’s levy.