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Judge hits out at PSNI over ‘pointless’ bail objections in special court sittings

“I’m very, very close to pulling the trigger in awarding costs against police”

Dungannon Court

A judge has warned he is “very close to pulling the trigger” in awarding costs against PSNI if they continue to bring cases before special court sittings on Saturdays and Bank Holidays, in which arrested persons should have been released on bail.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan launched the attack after dealing with a number of overnight cases during a special sitting of Dungannon Magistrates Court.

He remarked: “I am faced with pointless objections to bail which should not be before a Bank Holiday court. This is my last warning before I will start awarding costs against police. I am not coming to every Saturday and Bank Holiday Monday court or whenever it is, pointlessly. I don’t know who the superiors are, but these messages have to go back.”

One such case was Thomas Gallagher, whose age is unknown, of Bracken Park, Derry/Londonderry, who is accused of harassing of his ex-partner between 24 March and 2 May.

A police officer confirmed the charge could be connected.

The injured party reported Gallagher was: “Continually harassing and intimidating her, and she couldn’t take any more.”

Matters came to a head on Sunday afternoon, when he: “Shouted at her in front of her children”.

In another incident, Gallagher allegedly knocked her bedroom window and shouted derogatory names before asking: “Do you not want to love me anymore?”

A few weeks later, Gallagher allegedly again arrived at the injured party’s bedroom window and asked her to take him back.

He claimed: “Everything had changed” but then started banging on the front door.

On the day of arrest, Gallagher twice appeared outside the injured party’s home: “Continuing to provoke her.”

The officer noted Gallagher has breached a Non-Molestation Order on four occasions in the past, although these relate to a different person.

She said: “The main problem is the injured party literally lives round the corner from the defendant.”

A defence barrister pointed out his client cooperated fully with police and maintains throughout the alleged period of offending: “These parties have been in consensual, adult, amicable contact after separating two months ago.”

He accepted geographical proximity is a problem however: “It’s unclear why this case had to proceed today as my client proposed an alternative address while in custody.”

On hearing this, an exasperated Judge Ranaghan responded: “Bail was opposed with the main concern being the close proximity of the addresses. I’m now told another address was proffered which would remove that concern. We’re in a position where we are called out on a Bank Holiday Monday for a pointless bail objection again. I’m very, very close to pulling the trigger in awarding costs against police.”

He ordered Gallagher to be released to the address once it has been approved by police and banned all contact with the alleged injured party.

Judge Ranaghan continued: “Please take the message back. I am not having every person who is in this court building today inconvenienced by a failure to properly consider bail objections. We start with the presumption of bail, which is where police should fix their minds and not just object because it suits them or because they couldn’t be bothered thinking properly about things going forward. I want that message brought back to those who are making these decisions. It is not good enough.”

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