Northern Ireland news

Three west Belfast men charged with stealing digger and trailer

Robert Braniff (34) pictured at Lisburn Magistrates Court

THREE west Belfast men have appeared in court charged with stealing a digger and trailer worth £20,000 two years ago.

Standing side-by-side at Lisburn Magistrates Court, 28-year-old Damien Rush, Robert Braniff (34) and 49-year-old Patrick McGowan confirmed they understood the single charge against them.

Rush, from Balkan Street, Braniff, from Ballymurphy Road, and McGowan, from Britton’s Parade, are accused of stealing a JCB digger and Ivor Williams trailer from the Knockbracken estate on March 23 2017.

No other details surrounding the charge were revealed but during a short preliminary enquiry - the legal process necessary to refer a case upwards to the Crown Court - a prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a case to answer against each of the defendants.

Damien Rush (28) pictured at Lisburn Magistrates Court

Their defence lawyers declined the opportunity to call evidence.

Applying for legal aid, one commented that the charge is “particularly significant given the current media attention” and said there will be “forensic issues” to deal with at trial.

Freeing the three men on their own bail of £500 and granting legal aid for one counsel, Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hare ordered them to appear at Craigavon Crown Court for their arraignment on June 4.

Patrick McGowan (49) appeared in court charged with stealing a JCB digger and trailer

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