Northern Ireland

Man accused of conspiracy to rob refused bail

The High Court in Belfast
The High Court in Belfast

A van driver stopped in north Belfast while allegedly “tooled up” for an armed robbery plot must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled on Monday.

Michael Ferguson (39) was refused bail over claims that he was among three men carrying a loaded gun, balaclavas and disposal gloves.

Lord Justice Treacy stressed: “These are very serious and sinister charges that he faces.” 

Ferguson, of Main Street in Glenavy, Co Antrim, is accused of conspiracy to rob, having a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence, and using a motor vehicle without insurance.

He was arrested along with two co-accused when detectives stopped the Volkswagen Caddy van in the Rosapenna Street area on November 16 last year.

Police said the trio were detained as part of a proactive operation.

Tests carried out on a suspected Walther handgun seized from the vehicle confirmed that it was real and loaded at the time, the court was told.

Ferguson’s application for bail was opposed amid claims that he failed to cooperate with police following his arrest.

Prosecutors also contended that he poses a risk to the public.

Defence lawyers argued he should be released due to delays in completing the investigation.

It was stressed that he has now spent a full year remanded in custody.

But after being given an update on the case against the three accused, Lord Justice Treacy denied the application.

“They were (allegedly) tooled up in the van, there was a gun with three bullets in it and there were balaclavas,” the judge pointed out.

“Given the sinister and serious nature of what’s involved here it is just not a case that would be appropriate to grant bail.”