Northern Ireland news

Second Pitt Park accused refused permission to return to Belfast

Man walk through Pitt Park in east Belfast in February

A man who allegedly played a "leadership role" in a loyalist show of strength in east Belfast cannot return to live in the city, a judge has ruled.

Derek Lammey, 56, faces charges linked to the gathering of up to 60 masked men at Pitt Park earlier this year.

He is currently out on bail to an address in Co Down, with conditions including a ban on entering the area or contacting any other suspected participants.

Lammey sought to vary those terms after co-accused Stephen Matthews secured permission to move back to the city on Monday.

But a judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court refused his application after citing the risk of re-offending.

Lammey, of Spring Place in the city, faces charges of unlawful assembly and affray in connection with the high-profile incident on February 2.

Stephen Matthews, 58, of Pansy Street in Belfast, and his 34-year-old son, David Matthews, of Millreagh in Dundonald, are accused of the same offences.

All three defendants deny involvement and are not charged with any paramilitary offences.

Masked men who arrived at Pitt Park in two grounds are believed to be linked to the East Belfast UVF, prosecutors have alleged.

Disputed claims were made that 11 people living in the area fled their homes and sheltered in a nearby community centre for up to eight days.

Opposing Lammey's bid to return to his family home, a Crown lawyer highlighted his alleged involvement in the incident.

"Mr Lammey and Mr Stephen Matthews were displaying leadership roles, leading the first group," she told the court.

"The police view is this gathering was effectively a display of force, and had paramilitary overtones."

District Judge Steven Keown was told tensions remain high in the area.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey argued that Lammey has abided by strict bail conditions, which include a prohibition on being with more than three people in public.

"He's found it very difficult outside of the area where he has lived for his whole life," Mr McConkey submitted.

Denying the bail variation request, however, Judge Keown confirmed: "I'm concerned about the risk of re-offending."

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