Northern Ireland news

Co Down man (52) refused bail after playing 'hide and seek'' with police for six months

Belfast Crown Court heard that Paul Smyth (52) had 206 previous convictions

A Co Down man has been refused bail after a judge accused him of playing "hide and seek'' with police for six months.

Paul Smyth (52), of Manor Avenue in Bangor, was to have been sentenced last December at Downpatrick Crown Court for fraud.

However, he went on the run, Belfast Crown Court heard today.

"Police made strenuous efforts to find him and tried to make contact him without success," said prosecution lawyer David Russell.

"He was eventually tracked down to Portavogie in July this year.''

The court heard that Smyth had pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud by false representation in that he claimed he had "authority to lease a flat at Hawthorn Rise, Ballywalter, Co Down'' for £100.

Mr Russell told Judge Neil Rafferty that Smyth had 206 previous convictions, including 43 for deception and seven for fraud.

Objecting to his release on bail, the prosecutor said this was based on his previous offending and concerns he would not turn up for sentencing.

He said that if freed, the prosecution would seeking a cash surety of £500.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey said at Belfast Crown Court last month, Judge Elizabeth McCaffrey had granted Smyth bail on the stringent conditions of a cash surety, electronic tagging, observing an 11pm to 8am curfew, and reporting to police every other day in Newtownards.

He said Smyth had accepted his guilt at police interview and co-operated with probation, but had then failed to turn for his sentencing in Downpatrick.

Mr McConkey added that the defendant had an agreed bail address in Portavogie, Co Down, and was due to see a psychiatrist later this month prior to sentencing.

However, he told Judge Rafferty that the problem Smyth faced was that he was not in contact with anyone who could go surety for his bail.

"But for his record, this matter would have been dealt with in the magistrates court and he would likely not be going to jail.''

Judge Rafferty said Smyth had been "playing hide and seek'' with police while on the run for six months and he was concerned that no cash surety could be perfected to secure the defendant's release.

Refusing the bail application and remanding Smyth back into custody, Judge Rafferty said: "I don't see a great injustice being done.''

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