Bail for man accused of leading show of strength
A man accused of leading a loyalist show of strength in east Belfast has been granted bail at the High Court.
Stephen Matthews is to be released from custody on strict conditions including a ban on being with more than two other people in public.
The 58-year-old was allegedly involved in a gathering of up to 60 masked men at Pitt Park on February 2 claimed to be linked to the East Belfast UVF.
Matthews, from Pansy Street in the city, faces charges of unlawful assembly and affray.
His 34-year-old son, David Matthews, of Millreagh in Dundonald, and Derek Lammey, 56, from Spring Place in Belfast, are accused of the same offences.
All three defendants deny involvement and have not been charged with any paramilitary offences.
Prosecutors have alleged Stephen Matthews and Lammey played leadership roles as the group of men heading into Pitt Park .
Stephen Matthews’ legal team, Gavan Duffy QC and Richard McConkey, insisted the alleged incident involved no threat of violence.
Mr Justice Humphreys was told a UVF flag and plaque commemorating one of its murdered commanders, Robert Seymour, has been seized from Stephen Matthews’ home.
According to defence counsel, however, similar articles are far from rare in that part of Belfast and are not prohibited.
With David Matthews granted bail last month to live at a location outside Belfast, the judge ruled that his father can also now be released on a £10,000 surety.
He said: “In the context of the worrying street violence seen in Belfast this week, it’s welcome that in that part of east Belfast there appears to have been a maintenance of the peace.”
Stephen Matthews was ordered to live under curfew in Co Down, and barred from contacting others arrested as part of the probe. He is not allowed to appear with more than two people in public.