Loyalist’s application to vary bail leaves judge unimpressed

Mark Harbinson goes on trial next month on firearms charges
Mark Harbinson goes on trial next month on firearms charges

Prominent loyalist Mark Harbinson has failed in a bid to have his bail conditions eased in the run-up to his trial next month on firearms offences.

Rejecting the application Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told defence barrister Tom McCreanor he was “not impressed” by 50-year-old Harbinson’s attempt to vary his bail conditions given his lack of employment.

Initially the Crown Court judge heard that Harbinson was no longer applying to have his bail conditions relaxed to attend a football match this coming weekend.

Having been asked by the judge if the match had been called off, Mr McCreanor said it had been switched from the Saturday to the Sunday and that Harbinson no longer wished to attend the game.

However, Mr McCreanor then asked for Harbinson’s bail conditions, which include signing on with police three days per week, and a 11pm to 7am curfew, to be relaxed prior to his trial.

Mr McCreanor said his original, stricter, bail conditions were varied back in June when his trial was unable to proceed at that time, and now would apply for the signing on condition to be varied.

“Why is that onerous?” asked the Recorder, to which the defence lawyer replied that it “does require him to be available at these times”, to sign his bail.

However, when Mr McCreanor revealed that Harbinson is not working, Judge McFarland said “if he is not working he has nothing to do and can go down to the police station and sign on”, adding that he was “not impressed” by his application.

He is due to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court on three firearms offences linked to the discovery of a pistol, silencer and bullets in a biscuit tin, uncovered in outbuildings at his Sheepwalk Road home on the outskirts of Lisburn on December 21, 2015.