Northern Ireland

High Court denies Harbinson bail

The High Court has heard that a threat was allegedly made to one of the girls due to testify against prominent loyalist Mark Harbinson.

It was alleged that a family friend had overheard talk of a plan to burn the home of a girl he is accused of indecently assaulting.

Mr Harbinson, 43, denies raping a 13-year-old girl and assaulting a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice McLaughlin said there was an array of evidence.

Mr Harbinson, from Sheepwalk Road, Stoneyford, County Antrim, is also accused of possessing indecent photographs and sexual activity between an adult and a child.

The court heard Mr Harbinson detained by police in a car with the 13-year-old girl three days after his house was searched in October 2009 - a computer and five mobile phones were seized.

Crown counsel Kate McKay said phone analysis showed more than 1,000 contacts between him and the 13-year-old girl, mostly in the form of texts.

Opposing his application for bail Mrs McKay said a person called to the home of the 15-year-old who he allegedly assaulted.

This person have overhead a threat "that this girl would be burned out if she gave evidence against this applicant".

The barrister for the defence said it could not be proved that Mr Harbinson knew anything of this threat.

He also pointed out that the 13-year-old girl was responsible for most of the contact between her and Mr Harbinson.

Justice McLaughlin said there was a risk of witness interference.

"This applicant has a formidable array of evidence to meet in respect of these charges, which are extremely grave charges and would result in a very long sentence of imprisonment if he was convicted of them," he added.