ATM blast accused from Dungannon refused passport for family holiday

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A Romanian man living in Dungannon, but allowed to spend week-ends in Dublin while awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in an attempt to blast open an ATM, was today (Thurs) refused his passport for a holiday in Europe.

However, Ioan Anton, of Terryglassog Road, Dungannon, is to have his ‘tag’ removed for a week-end to attend hospital in Dublin, and then for a week to have a holiday in Ireland with his family.

Anton, who moved here in 1998, is accused of causing an explosion, with intent to endanger life during the attempted theft from a Costcutter’s store ATM in Hamiltonsbawn on June 5, 2014.

Defence lawyer Plunkett Nugent told Newry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, that initially Anton, who operates a car-wash employing five people, wanted his ‘leg-tag’ removed so he could undergo an MRI scan in a Dublin hospital.

Mr Nugent said he was also seeking permission to travel either to Italy or Spain for a holiday with his wife and two children, aged eight and 16, before his trial in October.

The lawyer explained that while he lives in Northern Ireland, he is permitted to spend his weekends in Dublin with his family.

Anton, he added, “has had ample opportunity to flee”, but instead had met all his bail conditions, even lodging a cash bond of £2,000, which could be doubled, if needed.

Mr Nugent said Anton “fully intends to fight his case, and is adamant about that”, but before hand was asking court to allow him to go on holiday.

Opposing the bail variations, Michael Chambers claimed the evidence against Anton and a co-accused was “quite compelling”, and if convicted could attract a sentence of 15 years or more.

The authorities, he said would not only object to his tag being removed for a week, but also to any prospect of Anton getting his passport back.

Mr Chambers said the attack on the Hamiltonsbawn store was not just a two-man enterprise, but must have involved a degree of planning by “an organised criminal gang”, and there was “very great concern” as to him absconding.

At present, he added, Anton had neither an ‘identity card’ or passport and was restricted to the island of Ireland.

The lawyer said Anton may have complied with his bail condition, but claimed that as “the day of reckoning” drew closer... so did the temptation to abscond.

Judge Brian Sherrard said it appeared the principle concern of the Crown was the return of Anton’s passport, but with regards to the tagging issue, he had already missed a hospital appointment because of it.

He added, given the background, in terms of Anton being allowed to travel to the Republic of Ireland, the tag should be removed for the weekend of the renewed hospital visit.

However, Judge Sherrard said the “holiday aspect... is the more troubling aspect”, and that he “shared the concerns of the PPS”, with regard to the oncoming trial, the nature and organisation of the offences Anton faces, and the real concerns of him absconding.

He added, that while Anton had been “trusted with some latitude” with his bail, he was “not prepared” to allow him to go on a foreign holiday, but would grant him one “in the island of Ireland”.