Northern Ireland

Judge Mark Hamill says he will 'not be intimidated' following attack on court and threatening graffiti

Damage to Ards courthouse and graffiti targetting District Judge Mark Hamill
Damage to Ards courthouse and graffiti targetting District Judge Mark Hamill

A judge has said he will 'not be intimidated' after he was the target of threatening graffiti on a court wall. 

Overnight on Tuesday several windows at Newtownards Magistrates Court were damaged with graffiti, the judge's name and crosshair sprayed on the front wall of the court.

District Judge Mark Hamill, one of the north's most experienced magistrates, said the overnight incident is “an existential threat to the rule of law in Newtownards.”

“If anyone thinks that damaging the court and behaving in this way that the court will be intimidated - this court is not going to be intimidated.”

The incident comes as the cases against 20 defendants facing various charges relating to what the judge has described as a deadly, “gangster drug feud” were mentioned on Wednesday.

Damage to the courthouse in Newtownards
Damage to the courthouse in Newtownards

When he listed the case a week ago, DJ Hamill warned that anyone attending court had to be “on their Sunday best behaviour…or face a whirlwind of consequences” and in court on Wednesday the clearly incensed and angry senior magistrate made it clear “I do not care which side of this gangster drug feud attacked the court.”

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“It’s a threat to the rule of law in Ards and will be treated as such.”

A prosecuting lawyer told the court that in relation to one aspect of the case where a crowd of up to 60 men, many of them masked, took part in what the police have said is a “concerted show of strength” in Weaver's Grange on 6 April, the Public Prosecution Service intended to prosecute those cases on indictment in the Crown Court.

A dozen men, all from Ards, Bangor and east Belfast, are charged with affray and unlawful assembly and it was confirmed to the court that for an offence of affray in the Crown Court.