Belfast Telegraph

Orde asked why bail break loyalist not held
Chief Constable had earlier attacked judges for 'releases'

By Chris Thornton
27 September 2004

Chief Constable Hugh Orde has been asked to explain why his officers failed to arrest a bail-breaching loyalist - even though Mr Orde has previously attacked judges for releasing defendants before their trial.

SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said Mr Orde should "come clean" about why his officers did not enforce bail conditions broken by north Belfast loyalist Ihab Shoukri.

A High Court judge said last week that he was concerned that there was no explanation of the reasons to pursue Shoukri.

Mr Orde had previously complained about Shoukri's brother Andre being released on bail after being arrested with a gun - saying easy bail for accused criminals was his "biggest concern".

Ihab Shoukri (30), from Alliance Road, was seen by police in Belfast last week in breach of his bail conditions. He is supposed to stay outside the city.

He has been freed since last December while awaiting trial for a loyalist feud killing and UFF membership. The murder charge was dropped last month.

In court last week, the Crown suddenly dropped an application to return Shoukri to jail. Shoukri had arrived at court with a bag packed for a possible return.

Crown lawyer David Hopley said he could not explain the decision because he had not spoken with police.

Mr Justice Coghlin asked why Shoukri had not been arrested as new legislation demanded. "There are certain things I am not at liberty to go into at the moment," Mr Hopley replied.

Mr Coghlin said he was left "with a residual concern about this matter. This is a public court."

Commenting on the case today, Mr Maginness said: "There are too many questions being asked and being left unanswered regarding the failure of the PSNI to arrest this man for a clear breach of bail conditions."

He said it was "surprising" Shoukri was not arrested. "Any other accused person on bail would have been arrested," he claimed.

Last year Mr Orde said his "biggest concern" at present was the release of people accused of serious crime while they await trial.

He cited the case of Andre Shoukri, who spent months free on bail after being arrested with the gun.

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