Defence lawyer raises possibility of charges being dismissed because of court delays in cases connected to thefts of ATMs in County Antrim

Defence lawyer raises possibility of charges being dismissed because of court delays in cases connected to thefts of ATMs in County Antrim

A DEFENCE barrister has raised the possibility of charges being dismissed against a number of men alleged to have been involved in a wave of ATM thefts in County Antrim unless there is progress in the cases moving through the court system.

Lawyer Neil Moore was speaking at Antrim Magistrates Court, sitting in Ballymena on Tuesday, and branded delays in the case a "disgrace".

The court was told a Preliminary Enquiry - the legal step to send a case to the Crown Court - was due to have been held on Tuesday.

However, a prosecution lawyer said it could not go ahead and asked for the case to be put back to the end of September.

The prosecutor said an "undertaking" had been given by a colleague that the PE will proceed on September 28.

Jamie McConnell (28) and David Edward McClurkin (36),  both of Templeton Park, Templepatrick; Kenneth David Clarke (30), of Sevenmilestraight, Antrim; and Gary John Kincaid (34), of Flush Road near Belfast, are all charged with conspiracy to steal ATMs and cash on dates between October 2018 and December 2019.

Mr Moore said there was a "very lengthy history" to the case and added: "The allegations are that this is the operation of an organised crime gang in relation to the extraction and theft of ATMs in Antrim and surrounding areas".

A prosecution lawyer said there were "1,000 exhibits" and 377 statements in the case.

He said he could understand the defence lawyer's "frustration" but said "case prep" in his department was "short-staffed" due to annual leave.

Mr Moore said all the defendants are on bail.

He said he was not asking Deputy District Judge Trevor Browne to "dismiss the matter today" but asked him to issue a "warning" to the prosecution that the Preliminary Enquiry must proceed next time.

Mr Moore said "slippage in this case is phenomenal".

He said the delays were a "disgrace" and added that police had submitted files to the Public Prosecution Service "a long, long, time ago".

The judge set the Preliminary Enquiry date for September 28 and agreed to Mr Moore's suggestion to give a warning to the prosecution that the date needs to be met.