Newtownards man is remanded in custody charged with making threat to kill Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann

Newtownards man is remanded in custody charged with making threat to kill Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann

A MAN with a Newtownards address is accused of making a threat to kill Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann.

William Herbert Hawkes (44), of Ardmillan Crescent, is charged in relation to Monday November 15 this year.

The defendant appeared via video link at Newtownards Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

He is also charged with harassment of Mr Swann and 'persistent improper use' of a public electronic communications network 'for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety'.

Hawkes confirmed he understood the charges when he appeared via video link from Belfast.

A police officer believed he could connect the defendant to the charge.

The officer objected to bail and said the PSNI received a report from Mr Swann on November 15 in relation to a Twitter message.

The officer said alleged comments made by Hawkes' included describing the Health Minister as a "deadly little b*stard".

The court heard Hawkes was identified by police because of previous reports regarding his Twitter 'handle'.

Electronic devices were seized at the defendant's address.

Hawkes made a 'no comment' interview and did not give the passwords to his devices, the court was told.

District Judge Mark Hamill said it was "disturbing" that on November 4 the court gave Hawkes Probation for a "similar" matter and he had allegedly re-offended eleven days later.

He refused bail on the grounds of a risk of further offences.

"This case may well go to the Crown Court it is that serious," the judge said.

The defendant was remanded in custody and the case adjourned to December 15.

Ahead of the court hearing, Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie had said on Tuesday he had asked the Northern Ireland Office to carry out an assessment of his party colleague's security.

Mr Beattie added: “Robin has had to increase his security already once and I’ve been in touch myself personally with the Northern Ireland Office to ask them to do an assessment of Robin’s security again, at a higher level – that’s the level we’ve got to at this moment in time.”