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No bail for Oldpark man accused of arson offences

By Staff Reporter

An Oldpark man accused of serious arson offences will remain in prison after he failed to obtain bail during a hearing in court last Friday.

24-year-old Gary Mulhern is in custody facing two charges of arson endangering life with intent after an incident on February 26 this year.

Opposing an application for bail on behalf of Mr Mulhern, a PPS solicitor  said they had a number of concerns including the address where he would be returning to and the possibility of witness interference.

The court heard that Mr Mulhern was arrested in the early hours of February 28 after the house that he shares with his mother caught fire.

In statement taken after the incident Mr Mulhern admitted to sniffing petrol and having brought two milk cartons full of petrol into his room.

He later asked his mother for a lighter and when she refused, he went to a neighbour who provided him with one.

Going back to his room, he told the police he was “messing about” with the lighter and set fire to the bed, but was able to put it out.

The prosecution said when asked how he felt after that he told them he thought it was “funny.” Continuing to play with the lighter he set fire to his coat and it soon engulfed his room, and then the house.

Asked if he thought his actions were dangerous he replied it was “disgraceful behaviour” and he was “sorry.”

The prosecution said they had “serious concerns” about letting Mr Mulhern out on bail as the address put forward was the same address where the fire had occurred.

The solicitor said the Fold Housing Association who own the house were also reluctant to allow him back, and had already refused a request at an earlier hearing.

Acting on behalf of Mr Mulhern barrister Jon Paul Shields said that it was a matter for the court to decide on bail but said he [Mulhern] had been responding well to treatment in jail for a range of mental health issues.

He said witness intimidation wasn’t a factor because one of the witnesses was his mother who had already made a statement to the police, and that it was her who he would be living with.

“She reported him to the police and gave a statement immediately,” he said.

Reading a psychiatric report Judge Stephen Fowler QC said he was concerned it didn’t refer to a previous incident where Mr Mulhern had set fire to himself in the street and that there were no references to him having taken part in courses within prison for problems with alcohol and substance abuse, which the defendant suffers from.

“This is a young man of 24 who suffers from substance and alcohol misuse but through five months of custody has been able to be medically assisted off substances.”

Mr Shields said he would be able to find treatment for his issues, which include anxiety and depression, within the community should he be granted bail with a “raft of conditions” to ensure his and the community’s safety.

However Judge Fowler said he wasn’t satisfied he should be released conditionally ahead of his trial.

He said the defendant had “significant entrenched alcohol and substance abuse problems” and would be a “significant risk to the public.”

He said the psychiatric report had focused on what the defendant had said and he was worried that the previous incident where Mr Mulhern had set fire to his trousers was not mentioned in the report.

He also queried a lack of reference to courses having been fulfilled in prison. Mulhern will appear in court again next month for an arraignment.


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