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Court told Derry man attempted to assault prison staff moments before bail application

Man charged with attempting to choke woman ordered to stay out of Co Derry

Derry Court House

A Derry man has been accused of attempting to assault a prison officer just before he was due to appear in court for a bail application.

Joseph Harkin, 57, of High Park in the city, is charged with three counts of threatening to kill individuals including a police officer, disorderly behaviour, criminal damage and common assault on July 15 and 16, 2020.

The defendant was due to appear in court by way of video link from HM Prison Maghaberry.

But a prison officer told the court that Harkin could not be produced because he ‘attempted to assault staff’.

Applying for bail, defence barrister Stephen Mooney asked the judge to exclude that ‘scurrilous allegation’ against his client.

He said that the criminal damage charge consists of Harkin spitting on a police car which is not the ‘most egregious offence of criminal damage’.

Mr Mooney accepted that the 57-year-old has an ‘incredibly bad’ criminal record.

Having been in custody since July, defence counsel said his client has already served the equivalent of an eight months’ prison sentence and the maximum he could get is 12 months.

“He’s at real risk of serving more time than he would even get in this.

“Not withstanding what the officer said it is a case where I believe he should be afforded a chance.

“If he puts one foot out of line he could be remanded back into custody until the case concludes,” Mr Mooney added.

District Judge Barney McElholm said it is ‘almost inevitable’ Harkin will reoffend.

The court heard that the defendant needs to be put on his election and plea which could prove ‘difficult’ because of his ‘erratic’ behaviour.

Judge McElholm said Harkin is not helping himself and he wants to get his attitude before making a decision.

Police were also asked to decide on the suitability of a proposed bail address.

Harkin will appear before the court again by way of video link on November 16.

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