Bail granted for Lurgan man in Encrochat Phone Network Sting. Report on the case in which our Solicitor Patrick Madden is instructed.
A Lurgan scaffolder allegedly involved in an organised crime gang prepared to use “quite serious violence to settle disputes” was granted bail today (Thursday).
Freeing 29-year-old Samuel Finbar McCaughey on bail on condition that a £20,000 cash surety is lodged at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Rosie Watters said had others in similar cases not been freed already “I would not be granting him bail.”
Appearing on videolink from police custody, McCaughey confirmed that he understood the nine charges against him.
McCaughey faces seven conspiracy charges accusing him of conspiring with others to murder another person, to possess a handgun, ammunition and explosives with intent to endanger life, to steal motor vehicles, to intimidate a witness and to supply cocaine and cannabis and with entering an arrangement to acquire criminal property, all alleged to have been committed on dates between March 25 and June 15 this year.
The 29-year-old faces a further charge of driving dangerously in the Silverwood Industrial Estate in Lurgan on April 9 this year.
Giving evidence to the court, Detective Constable Cummings said she believed she could connect McCaughey to each of the offences while prosecuting counsel Robin Steer said there were objections to the defendant being granted bail due to fears of him committing further offences and posing a risk to the public.
Almost 30 other men have appeared in court facing similar drug charges after French police managed to access previously encrypted telephone data on the Encro phone network.
Mr Steer told the court that in relation to McCaughey, police do not have physical possession of the encrypted handset but believe they can attribute the data obtained from it to the defendant.
He described how data found on McCaughey’s “ordinary iPhone” matched data retrieved from the encrypted handset such as a video of a flight to Spain taking off and landing and contact details for other people.
The lawyer revealed that detectives uncovered a photograph of the encrypted handset on McCaughey’s iPhone.
Amongst the messages retrieved from the encrypted handset, said Mr Steer, were conversations about “planting something on a window, presumably explosives,” messages referring to McCaughey allegedly seeking ammunition, referring to “three boxes of food” which Mr Steer claimed was “typical slang for ammunition,” as well as “references to shooting people and references to firearms and explosives”.
The court heard there were also messages exchanged with another user who “asked about the acquisition of Semtex” but defence counsel Aaron Thompson highlighted how those “were not replied to”.
Mr Steer submitted that “based on the messages we say he is a senior member of an organised crime gang….of not only a drugs gang but one thing appears to be quite ready to use violence and quite serious violence to settle disputes”.
The court heard that McCaughey voluntarily attended at the police station on Tuesday but refused to answer questions during police interviews.
Lodging an application for bail, Mr Thompson said that in the majority of other similar cases, “initially no one got bail” but that more recently, only those with serious criminal records had been refused bail.
In McCaughey’s case, argued the lawyer, his amounted to 39 convictions including six for simple possession of drugs, describing it as a “modest record” which “is not indicative of a person involved at high level drug dealing”.
He further argued “there will be a lot of waters passing under the bridge before this case comes to be tried” with so many similar cases already ahead of McCaughey’s in the queue and with each one likely to go to trial as the admissibility of the evidence is tested.
District Judge Watters said that “on balance,” especially given the fact that bail had been granted to others in similar circumstances, she would accede to the defence application for bail.
Freeing McCaughey on his own bail of £1,000 with a cash surety of £20,000, the judge ordered him to reside at an address outside of the Lurgan area, to surrender his passport, to observe a curfew and to be electronically tagged.
She also barred McCaughey from having a mobile phone and from leaving the jurisdiction.