Northern Ireland

Burglary accused released as judge criticises PPS

A man allegedly linked to a spate of burglaries was granted bail after a judge criticised prosecution service "incompetence".

Lord Justice Coghlin released Raymond Moore under strict conditions.

He pointed to the length of time the accused has been in custody since being arrested in connection with break-ins to south Belfast homes in January.

Moore, 26, of no fixed address, faces charges of burglary and attempted burglary with intent.

The High Court heard he was arrested after a police helicopter followed a taxi carrying two men suspected of trying to break into a house on Newtownbreda Road.

At one stage socks containing cash and jewellery were seen being dumped out of the car, it was claimed.

Tougher

Investigations revealed they had been taken from two other homes in the area.

A prosecution barrister said the taxi firm have confirmed the cab was ordered a minute after the Newtownbreda Road incident was reported.

Preliminary results of forensic tests on blood found at the scene link it to Moore, he added.

However, lawyers for the accused based their bail application on delays in progressing the case.

Defence barrister Alan Blackburn argued that his client has been held in custody too long. The court heard how a magistrate refused jurisdiction in the case earlier this year because he felt he did not have sufficient sentencing powers for the alleged offences.

Despite this a preliminary enquiry to have Moore returned for Crown Court trial - where tougher sentences can be imposed - has not yet taken place.

Lord Justice Coghlin acknowledged the perceived risk of further offences associated with releasing Moore.

But he said: "It appears as a result of the incompetence of the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) that this man has now been in custody some five months.

"While there is obviously a risk to the public that cannot really be permitted to occur. Consequently I propose to grant this man bail."

The judge ordered restrictions on Moore's movement, including a night-time curfew and electronic tagging conditions. He also banned him from being in any private vehicles or contacting a co-accused.