A leading unionist paramilitary who was caught breaking bail conditions has controversially been allowed to remain free.
Ihab Shoukri, brother of senior UDA figure Andre, walked free from court yesterday despite breaching a bail condition order banning him from entering Belfast.
Shoukri, from north Belfast, has been out on bail since last December on charges of a loyalist feud murder and membership of the UDA.
He had been accused of murdering Alan McCullough, an ally of ousted UDA boss Johnny Adair, but the charge was dropped last month.
The Crown had been due yesterday to apply to have Shoukri’s bail revoked after he was seen by police in Belfast last week.
At the hearing, High Court judge Mr Justice Coghlin asked why Shoukri had not been arrested immediately, as new legislation demanded.
Crown counsel David Hopley replied: “There are certain things I am not at liberty to go into at the moment.”
Mr Hopley also said his instructions were not to proceed with the application to revoke Shoukri’s bail, and when the judge asked the reason he replied: “I have not spoken to the police officer so I cannot tell you.”
Mr Justice Coghlin said he did not think it right to interrogate counsel, but added: “I am left with a residual concern about this matter. This is a public court.”
Politicians last night also expressed concern at the failure to return Ihab Shoukri to prison.
SDLP former Belfast lord mayor Martin Morgan warned that it would threaten public confidence in law and order.
“It now appears that people like Ihab Shoukri can break their bail conditions and get away with it,” he said. “What kind of message does this send to the public?
“What is the point of bail conditions if people are caught breaking them and then absolutely nothing is done about it?”
Sinn Féin councillor Eoin O Broin also said: “In any other city this would be seen as both amazing and unacceptable.
“Here in Belfast many people will not be surprised by this, and I am sure it has angered many people.
“It seems to be that it is one rule for loyalists and another rule for other people.”