Masked men cut off electronic tag District Judge is told during case

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A man in his 20s has appeared before Londonderry Magistrates Court charged with the theft of an electronic tag and home monitoring kit worth £1,200.

In the dock was William Martin McDonnell (28), with an address at Culdaff Gardens.

The District Judge hearing the case, Barney McElholm, was told McDonnell was claiming that masked men came into his home and cut off his electronic tag.

In addition to the theft charge, McDonnell was also accused of causing damage to the equipment owned by G4S security services. The offences relate to December 7 last.

District Judge McElholm was told McDonnell was currently on bail for on an alleged charge of smuggling a note into Maghaberry Prison.

Outlining the case, the Prosecution told the court that G4S received a notification that the tag attached to McDonnell had been tampered with on Sunday night.

On foot of this police were tasked to arrest McDonnell, which they did later on that evening.

It was revealed in evidence to the court that there was no sign of the electronic tag or the monitoring unit in McDonnell’s home.

After arrest and during interview, McDonnell told police that masked men entered his house and removed both his tag and the monitoring unit.

He claimed to police that he had phoned G4S to let them know.

However, an investigating officer in the case was able to give evidence that the security company, when contacted, had no record of McDonnell’s alleged phone call, and was further able to testify that there had been no obvious signs of forced entry to McDonnell’s home.

Defence counsel Steven Mooney, who appeared for the defendant, told the court his client was released on bail two weeks ago. He said McDonnell had complied with the stringent conditions imposed. These included signing at the police station every day and being banned from contacting ‘certain individuals’.

He said if McDonnell was lying it would be a kamikaze suicide mission which would not be to his benefit.

The barrister also told the court the 28-year-old was in contact with his solicitor on Sunday evening.

He said an exchange between them ‘corroborated’ his version of the events and the phone call to G4S.

District Judge Barney McElholm said McDonnell’s version of events ‘could be true’ but it was also possible McDonnell removed the tag himself or was working with the ‘masked men’.

However, the judge told the court he has to give the 28-year-old the benefit of the doubt.

McDonnell was released on the same terms and conditions of bail and will appear in court again later this week.