Newtownards man accused of making threats to kill Health Minister has latest bail application refused

Newtownards man accused of making threats to kill Health Minister has latest bail application refused

A 44-year-old Newtownards man charged with making threats to kill Health Minister Robin Swann has had his latest application for bail refused.

William Herbert Hawkes, of Ardmillan Crescent, appeared at Newtownards Magistrates Court via video link from prison, where he is on remand, on Wednesday.

Hawkes is accused in relation to January 22 this year.

As well as the threat to kill allegation, the defendant is accused of harassing Mr Swann and improper use of electronic communications on January 22.

The defendant also faces similar charges relating to the Health Minister November 15 last year.

The charges relate to reports of online abuse towards Mr Swann.

A PSNI officer objected to bail saying police believe there is a "real threat to the life of the Health Minister Robin Swann".

She alleged the defendant had "continued a campaign against Mr Swann".

A defence lawyer said the bail application was being made because although passwords had been supplied for phones and laptops, prosecutors had said there would be  "some considerable delay" in analysing the devices.

He said the defendant had spent three months on remand and the "timeframe for analysis can stretch to almost six months."

The lawyer added: "Mr Swann is no longer technically the Health Minister, given the fact that there are elections looming and he may not be reinstated as Health Minister if the Assembly reconfigures itself.

"Also there is the consideration that the Covid situation, our public health situation, is no longer as prevalent and as omnipresent as it was".

District Judge Mark Hamill told the solicitor: "You must be living in a parallel universe to me. As far as I am concerned the pandemic is pretty severe.

"The only saving grace is that it is not clogging up our hospitals but it is more prevalent than it ever was."

The lawyer said: "Well there are no restrictions in place".

The judge said that was due to the "brilliance of the scientists in producing a vaccine".

Judge Hamill said he was sure the defendant had "some views on the vaccine".

The defence lawyer said the defendant has been engaging with a psychologist and has been diagnosed with Asberger's Syndrome "that may have played some part in this entire situation".

Refusing bail, Judge Hamill said: "Minister Swann, whether he is a Minister or whether he is not, as a citizen is entitled to protection and he will be protected and because he is a danger to Mr Swann as evidenced by the persistent threat by your client bail is refused."

Judge Hamill adjourned the case to May 11 and said he wanted an indication from prosecutors as to whether the case would remain in the Magistrates Court or be sent to the Crown Court.

  • Main picture: Health Minister Robin Swann.