Judge agrees to ‘relax’ bail conditions of man facing firearms charges

Stoneyford loyalist Mark Harbinson. Pic by Pacemaker Press 22/8/2013
Stoneyford loyalist Mark Harbinson. Pic by Pacemaker Press 22/8/2013

Stoneyford loyalist Mark Harbinson has succeeded in having his tag and curfew conditions removed, but only with the added restriction of now signing for his bail with police on a daily basis, instead of three times a week.

On Thursday the bail conditions of 50-year-old Harbinson were ‘relaxed’, as they were in the past, after his Belfast Crown Court trial on firearms offences had to be adjourned yet again, this time until the end of January next year.

He was due to go on trial earlier this month for possession, under suspicious circumstances, and without Firearms Certificates, of a 9mm Makarov type pistol, a silencer and 28 rounds of 9mm ammunition found in a biscuit tin, uncovered in outbuildings at his Sheepwalk Road home on December 21, 2015.

Crown barrister David Russell told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland it was still felt the bail conditions were necessary to deal with the “risk of flight” by Harbinson who was arrested in England after fleeing the country. However, it was accepted that the conditions could be looked at again because of further delays in dealing with his case.

Defence barrister Tom McCreanor, who initially applied for both the 11pm curfew and tagging conditions to be scrapped, claimed that Harbinson has had ample opportunity in the last 16 months to abscond since being granted bail.

“If he really wanted to avoid detection and his trial, there is nothing to stop him,” Mr McCreanor said.

He added that Harbinson wanted “to be at liberty” to visit friends, or go to functions, whenever he wanted anywhere in Northern Ireland, instead of having to return at specific times to meet his curfew.

Judge McFarland said that if he were to remove the main condition of curfew, he would want Harbinson to be signing at a police station on a daily basis, which he initially was required to do. He added later that if he were to abscond, his failure to sign his bail would alert the authorities to that fact.

Following a consultation with his solicitor, Mr McCreanor said that the ‘seven day requirement’ was Harbinson’s preferred option.