A DISTRICT judge has again criticised cases of alleged breaches of bail being brought before special court sittings, contending police are “making a mockery” of the system.

Having spoken out against a number of cases at Dungannon Magistrates Court on Saturday morning, May 29, District Judge Michael Ranaghan’s frustration boiled over, and in one instance said the arrested person may wish to consider suing police.

It comes on the back of similar comments made by the judge earlier this month during another Saturday sitting when he warned: “I’m very, very close to pulling the trigger in awarding costs against police.”

In the latest matter, Toni Lynott (30), of Main Street, Dromore, County Tyrone, appeared by video-link from police custody for an alleged bail breach.

An officer told the court on May 20, police stopped a vehicle on the M1 motorway, and the front seat passenger identified herself as Sarah Kennedy, but it transpired it was Ms. Lynott.

A rear seat passenger identified himself as Roger McKenna, but he was in fact alleged to be one Andrew Carson. Both are currently banned from any contact with each other.

A defence solicitor said the breach is not accepted and Judge Ranaghan enquired what evidence existed in this respect.

The officer said on conducting further enquiries, police contend both persons gave false identities, after which Ms. Lynott was arrested.

When Judge Rangahan was told identities were verified following checks of the police database, he retorted: “I’m going to need a bit more than that. How did this transpire?”

The officer advised she was not involved in the arrest and could only rely on the statement provided to her for court purposes.

‘Pushing an open door’

Turning to the defence solicitor, Judge Ranaghan told him: “You may be pushing an open door.”

Under defence cross-examination, the officer said identification was made when “further detailed enquiries were conducted on the police computer which revealed the real identity was Toni Lynott; the other person’s details were also found to be false”.

The defence asked: “So, going by that, the officer had no idea who Toni Lynott was or what she looked like?”

The officer replied she had put forward all the information provided to her.

Judge Ranaghan said: “I’m cutting across this now. The breach has now been proved. I repeat again – those who are reviewing these cases need to do a better job.

“Police are making a mockery of special courts. I am not having it any longer.” Ordering Ms. Lynott’s release, he added: “It’s up to her whether she wants to sue the police.”

Just a few weeks ago, Judge Ranaghan faced a similar situation when presiding over a Saturday court, and warned: “I’m very, very close to pulling the trigger in awarding costs against police.”

Criticising “pointless objections to bail” at special courts, he instructed his comments to be taken back to senior police.

He said: “This is my last warning. I don’t know who the superiors are, but I am not having everyone 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.”