Northern Ireland news

Lyra McKee murder accused Paul McIntyre to remain in custody

Paul McIntyre pictured at Derry Magistrates' Court on February 15. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Prosecutors have won their appeal against a decision to grant bail to a man accused of murdering writer Lyra McKee.

Paul McIntyre (52) will remain in custody in Maghaberry high security prison as legal proceedings in the case progress.

Mrs Justice Siobhan Keegan granted the Public Prosecution Service appeal in Belfast High Court, accepting its contention that McIntyre would present a risk of committing further offences if released.

Ms McKee (29) was shot dead by dissident republicans while observing a riot in Derry's Creggan area last April.

The New IRA claimed responsibility.

McIntyre was originally granted bail by a district judge in Derry last month but was kept in custody pending the outcome of the PPS appeal.

Lyra McKee (29) was shot dead in April 2019

The defendant, from Kinnego Park in Derry, observed today's judgment via videolink from prison while some members of Ms McKee's family watched from the public gallery of the court.

McIntyre is charged with murder, possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and belonging to or professing to be a member of a proscribed organisation.

The judge heard two days of submissions from the PPS and the accused's legal team earlier in the week.

Noting the threat posed by dissident republicans in and the gravity of the charges facing McIntyre, Mrs Justice Keegan said the concerns outlined by prosecutors about the risk of further offending were "relevant, sufficient and plausible".

She said those factors outweighed defence arguments that the accused should be released.

Prosecutors do not believe McIntyre was the gunman, but claim mobile phone footage shows him working with the killer on the night, taking him to the firing spot, picking up spent bullet shells and then fleeing the scene together.

This evidence, they argue, demonstrates he is guilty of murder by way of joint enterprise.

Prosecutors objected to bail on the grounds that McIntyre could interfere with witnesses as well as a risk of reoffending.

The PPS had highlighted sinister dissident republican graffiti in the Creggan area making threats to those contemplating co-operating with police.

Justice Keegan condemned the graffiti, but said it was not a reason to deny bail, explaining that the threats could not be blamed on McIntyre individually.

"This is absolutely contemptible, but I consider it can't be levelled against the applicant specifically," she said.

McIntyre's lawyers had argued that the PPS had failed to present a prima facie case to the court linking their client to the shooting.

The judge stressed that the threshold for determining that was much lower than the evidential requirements for securing a criminal conviction.

She said there needed only to be a "reasonable suspicion" to establish if the accused had a case to answer.

The judge said while the defence had raised legitimate questions about the evidence she was satisfied the prosecution had established there was a prima facie case.

"In my view, while valid questions can be asked, I consider at this stage, and I repeat this is an early stage, the test is met," she said.

The judge noted that committal proceedings in the case were scheduled to be heard in April.

She said if there was an "unreasonable delay" in hearing those proceedings McIntyre would be eligible to again challenge his ongoing detention before a judge.

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