06/08/2012

Derry Drugs Charge Men's Names Kept Secret

A judge in Londonderry has banned the media from naming three men accused of drugs offences, because of concerns for the men's safety.

District Judge Barney McElhom said criminal elements in the city had targeted suspects after using media reports to identify them and he said there would be a risk to the men's lives if he allowed their identities to be made public.

The three men, aged 44, 30 and 21, have been remanded in custody, charged in connection with the discovery of £150,000 worth of cannabis in Blackthorn Manor on Friday.

Under the anonymity order, defendants' names and addresses cannot be reported and the date of their next video link remand cannot be reported.

Mr McElhom said he had extensively researched the law and higher court rulings in relation to anonymity orders.

Before the men's appearance in court today, he ordered that everyone except legal professionals, journalists and defendants' relatives leave the court room.

A detective constable told the court that on Friday members of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch found seven kilogrammes of cannabis, nine bricks of cannabis resin and £19,000 cash in a raid on a house and car.

One of the defendants was arrested at the scene and two others were arrested at addresses in the city.

The police officer said it was believed the three defendants and an unidentified lorry driver were members of a criminal gang involved in the illegal importation of drugs.

Two of the defendants made no reply to charges of possessing cannabis with intent to supply and the other said he did not know about the cannabis.

(NE)

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