Judge relaxes curfew terms for ‘career criminal’

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A 45-year-old man branded a ‘career criminal’ by a Belfast Crown Court judge has had his bail terms relaxed to enable him to spend more time with his disabled daughter.

James Edward Bonner, from Glengoland Gardens in Dunmurry, is due to stand trial in the new year on burglary offences dating back to last September.

Amongst the charges levelled against him is one of breaking into a menswear store on the Lisburn Road in Belfast, and stealing clothes worth around £25,000.

He was granted bail last September, when stringent conditions including tagging and a curfew were imposed.

He was back in court in a bid to get the conditions removed, with his defence team arguing that the 8pm curfew interfered with his ability to spend time with and care for his profoundly disabled daughter in the evening.

After hearing that this resulted in Bonner developing a “low mood”, Judge Geoffrey Miller noted that while the courts had every sympathy for his daughter’s health issues, he said: “Her condition hasn’t prevented him from being a career criminal for many years. When she was growing up, he spent a considerable amount of time in custody.”

Citing the accused’s 230 previous convictions and branding his record as “extensive”, Crown barrister Robin Steer said the application was opposed on the grounds there was a risk Bonner would reoffend.

Mr Steer said that whilst on bail and awaiting trial, Bonner had come to police attention on several occasions. Mr Steer revealed Bonner’s recent arrests included an incident on the Antrim Road in February where he was apprehended on suspicion of going equipped, and the suspected theft of patio equipment from Homebase at Boucher Road in June.

Judge Miller said that while everyone was entitled to a presumption of innocence, pending against Bonner is a “litany of matters in which he is a figure of interest to the authorities” – all of which occurred since he was granted bail last autumn.

He refused to remove the tag, but agreed to relax the curfew conditions from 8pm to 10pm.