Romanian on trial for Co Armagh ATM blast fails in holiday bid

The scene in Hamiltonsbawn after the ATM blast in 2014
The scene in Hamiltonsbawn after the ATM blast in 2014

A Romanian man awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in an attempt to blast open an ATM machine in Co Armagh has failed to have his passport returned to holiday in Europe.

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

William Irwin, the DUP MLA, pictured after the blast in Hamiltonsbawn

William Irwin, the DUP MLA, pictured after the blast in Hamiltonsbawn

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 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 (pounds money) in court, 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 the court to allow him to go away on holiday with his family.

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 object to any prospect of Anton getting back his passport.

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 therefore restricted to the island of Ireland.

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

Judge Brian Sherrard said 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”.