Dundonald taxi driver David Matthews – who prosecutors claim is linked to east Belfast UVF – fails to have electric tag scrapped

A taxi driver accused of taking part in a loyalist show of strength in east Belfast has failed in a legal bid to have his electronic tag removed.

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 5:44 pm
A mural of the east Belfast UVF; prosecutors have linked David Matthews to the group via a loyalist gathering in February, though he faces no paramilitary charge

A taxi driver accused of taking part in a loyalist show of strength in east Belfast has failed in a legal bid to have his electronic tag removed.

David Matthews, 35, sought permission to ditch the monitoring device while on bail over his alleged involvement in a gathering of up to 60 masked men at Pitt Park.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard it has wrongly exposed him to the threat of arrest because he is out at night working.

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But ruling that the tag must remain, a judge instead declared that a security company who checks on his whereabouts should “get their act together”.

Matthews, of Millreagh in Dundonald, is on bail charged with unlawful assembly and affray in connection with the high-profile incident on February 2 this year.

His 58-year-old father, Stephen Matthews, of Pansy Street in Belfast, and Derek Lammey, 56, from Spring Place in the city, are accused of the same offences.

The three defendants deny involvement and have not been charged with any paramilitary offences.

But according to prosecutors the masked men who arrived at Pitt Park are believed to be linked to the East Belfast UVF.

Disputed claims have been made that 11 people living in the area were forced to flee their homes and shelter in the nearby Ballymac community centre for up to eight days.

In court today a Crown lawyer contended: “It had all the hallmarks and overtones of a paramilitary gathering.

“Mr Matthews, along with his father and co-accused, had leadership roles within the formation.”

Defence lawyers sought to vary the bail terms due to his job as a taxi driver.

Solicitor Darragh Mackin argued that despite David Matthews’ curfew being suspended when he is on a night shift, his family are being woken by calls to check where he is.

“The system isn’t working,” Mr Mackin claimed.

Prosecution counsel accepted the situation “isn’t ideal”, but maintained that it has enabled Matthews to continue in his job.

Denying the application, District Judge Rosie Watters held that the electronic tag was better than requiring police to carry out checks at his address.

“I do think G4S have to really get their act together so this doesn’t happen again,” she added.

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