30 September 2004 Edition

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PSNI fail to arrest Shoukri for breaking bail

Controversy has erupted over the case of UDA member Ihab Shoukri, who walked free from court last week despite breaking bail conditions banning him from entering Belfast.

The DPP is seeking a report from the PSNI on the case after it was revealed that Shoukri was seen in Belfast last week by the PSNI, who failed to arrest him as they are required to do.

Shoukri (30), from Alliance Road in North Belfast, who was bailed in December 2003, faces a charge of membership of the UFF.

When he appeared at a bail hearing on Thursday 23 September it was thought the prosecution would apply to have his bail revoked and order that he be returned to prison. However, the crown didn't make the application and the loyalist was allowed to walk from the court.

During the hearing, Judge Coghlin asked the prosecution barrister David Hopley why the PSNI didn't arrest Shoukri when they spotted him. He was told, "there were certain things I am not at liberty to go into at this moment".

Hopley also told the judge he was instructed not to proceed with the application to have bail revoked.

Shoukri, who arrived at court with a packed holdall, believing he would be sent back to jail, told the hearing: "I would have no idea why the information was not disclosed in court. I would have no objections to it being disclosed. I can only assume the reasons they were not disclosed was that they would be embarrassing for the prosecution and the PSNI."

Sinn Féin councillor Eoin Ó Broin told An Phoblacht that in any other city this would be seen as amazing and unacceptable.

"Many people will be angry but not surprised by this because it seems there is one rule for loyalist paramilitaries and another rule for other people when it comes to action in the courts."

A charge that Shoukri killed 21-year-old Alan McCullough during a loyalist feud was dropped last month when the High Court was told that forensic tests on fibres, fingerprints and DNA samples taken from Shoukri were negative, but the charges of UFF membership were upheld.

• Meanwhile, a man described by prosecutors as the main extortioner for the UDA in North Belfast was refused bail at the same court.

Gary Owens (43), from Silverstream Crescent, is accused of demanding sums of £5,000 and £10,000 from the same building contractor at sites in Newtownards and Belfast and of membership of the UDA.

Judge Coghlin told Owens that there was very strong evidence against him, as he had been taped by the PSNI when he met the building contractor, allegedly to demand money.

• And a 19-year-old loyalist was remanded in custody after he was charged with making threats to kill, criminal damage and disorderly behaviour during a racist attack in the Village area of South Belfast on Wednesday night 22 September.

Laganside Court was told on Thursday 23 September that Gary Alan Kirkpatrick, from Silverstream Avenue, was arrested along with a woman in her early twenties after a man phoned the PSNI and told them someone was kicking his front door and shouting racial abuse.

The woman has been released pending further inquiries while Kirkpatrick was remanded in custody to appear again on 21 October.


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