Charges dropped against man accused of harassing former TUV candidate

Former TUV election candidate David Vance was the injured party
Former TUV election candidate David Vance was the injured party

A Belfast man accused of tweeting about a drone being sent to the home area of a former TUV election candidate has had harassment charges dismissed.

Michael Hickland, 42, was instead bound over for two years and ordered to have no social media contact with David Vance.

Hickland, of Cavendish Street in the city, told a judge he has already blocked the commentator and blogger on Twitter.

Mr Vance stood unsuccessfully for the TUV in East Belfast at the 2010 General Election.

Hickland had been charged with harassing him on dates between January 2013 and June 2016.

He also faced a second count of improperly using a public electronic communications network to send a message that was “grossly offensive... or of a menacing character”.

Charges against him related to a tweet allegedly offering to supply coordinates for sending a drone.

Hickland was set to contest the case against him at Belfast Magistrates’ Court today.

But his barrister, Sean O’Hare, revealed that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) was instead seeking to have the charges dismissed.

The resolution was reached after the defendant agreed to the binding over order.

A PPS lawyer stressed she wanted to ensure Hickland does not use Mr Vance’s name on Twitter.

District Judge Amanda Henderson ordered him: “You’re not to have any contact, direct or indirect, with the injured party David Vance.

“That isn’t just face to face, but significantly through any form of social media.”

Mr O’Hare stressed his client has no interest in starting up any further conversations about the commentator.

“Because of the nature of the posts made by Mr Vance, if the defendant blocks him he shouldn’t see any of these posts and shouldn’t have any reason to comment on them,” the barrister added.

“The two of them will have their own, separate online lives.”