Prison officer bomb accused is freed on bail

Christopher Robinson
Christopher Robinson

A man charged with murdering a prison officer in Belfast is to be released again on bail, the High Court has ruled today.

Prosecutors claimed Christopher Robinson’s renewed application should be refused due to Facebook postings about police officers and witnesses “intended to strike at the heart of the administration of justice”.

But with any trial unlikely to get underway before next September, a judge held that it would be wrong to keep him in custody for up to two years.

Robinson, 47, of Aspen Park in Dunmurry, is accused over the killing of Adrian Ismay in March 2016.

He also faces a further charge of possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.

Mr Ismay, 52, suffered serious leg injuries when a booby-trap bomb exploded under a van he was driving in the east of the city.

Despite an initial recovery, he died following a return to hospital 11 days later.

Robinson is allegedly linked to the bombing by CCTV footage of a car believed to have been used to plant the device at the victim’s Hillsborough Drive home.

A previous court was told forensic examination of the car revealed traces of RDX, an identifier in high explosive material, on its rear floor and seats.

Robinson was said to have known Mr Ismay through working together as volunteers with St John Ambulance.

He was orignally granted bail in May 2016, but following a number of alleged breaches his release was revoked five months later.

It was claimed that he defied a prohibition on any social media postings by providing a photo of a PSNI officer and then commenting on it when it was put online.

One of the Facebook comments labelled the policeman a sexual predator and described him as being a “paedophile cop”, the court heard.

Opposing Robinson’s fresh application for bail, a Crown lawyer contended that he had named police officers and a prosecution witness.

His actions were “intended to strike at the heart of the administration of justice and to intimidate witnesses and prevent them giving evidence”, it was alleged.

Defence counsel countered that Robinson had only been involved in a technical breach of bail by sharing the postings of others.

Rejecting submissions that his client could flee, he stressed that any trial is still nearly a year away.

With Robinson having spent 13 months in prison, Mr Justice Colton granted bail again based on the passage of time.

He said: “I don’t believe that it’s satisfactory that someone can be in custody for two years pending trial unless there simply is no other option open to the court.”

Imposing strict conditions, the judge ordered Robinson to live under curfew and report daily to police.

He also banned the accused from entering east Belfast, contacting witnesses or accessing social media.