Northern Ireland

Father and son 'high up in organised crime gang'

Paul Joseph Currie, 53, of Limekiln Lane and Stephen Currie, 29, of Coolnafranky Park, appeared by video-link at Dungannon Magistrates Court
Image caption Paul Joseph Currie, 53, of Limekiln Lane and Stephen Currie, 29, of Coolnafranky Park, appeared by video-link at Dungannon Magistrates Court

A PSNI officer has told a court that a County Tyrone father and son accused of drugs offences are believed to be senior members of a mid-Ulster organised crime gang.

Paul Joseph Currie, 53, of Limekiln Lane and Stephen Currie, 29, of Coolnafranky Park, Cookstown, appeared at Dungannon Magistrates Court.

They were arrested after a major drugs and cash seizure earlier this month.

Police recovered drugs with a potential street value of £1.5m in a lay-by.

During Wednesday's bail applications for the pair, a judge rejected their barrister's attempts to stop a police officer referring to recent drug-related deaths in the county.

Overruling the defence objections, the judge pointed out that such information was in the public interest, regardless of the case in question.

Both father and son, who appeared by videolink, are accused of a number of drugs-related offences, including conspiracy to supply cocaine, concealing criminal property and encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence.

A co-accused, 39-year-old Darren Loughlin, of Gortacar Road in Kesh, County Fermanagh, faces similar charges.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Police recovered drugs with a potential street value of £1.5m in a County Tyrone lay-by

He was refused bail at the first appearance, but later freed after a successful High Court application.

Opposing bail for both Paul and Stephen Currie, a detective constable said a Scania lorry, driven by Loughlin, disembarked from the Larne ferry on 12 November and made its way to Killymaddy Tourist Centre.

Whilst parked up, it was joined by a Peugeot car, driven by Stephen Currie. The occupants of each got out and three items were taken from the lorry.

The handover was witnessed by police.

The items were later found to be 40kg of cannabis, 1kg of cocaine and 25kg of benzocaine, a mixing agent for cocaine.

House searches

At the same time, police observed a Vauxhall Astra parked outside a house in Park Avenue, Cookstown.

Paul Currie was seen carrying items to this car, which was stopped shortly after moving off.

Searches at a number of properties in Cookstown led to the recovery of £82,000 in cash.

A search of a house in Lammy Lane, Dessertmartin, which is connected to Currie Snr, uncovered 11kg of cannabis resin and 3kg of herbal cannabis.

The detective pointed out that, whilst Currie Jnr has a very limited record, his father has multiple drugs convictions, and has served a total of 16 years in prison for such offences.

He said police "place the men high in an organised crime grouping, although we believe there are others higher".

"Class A drug use is inherently on the rise in Northern Ireland, with needle exchanges high and three drug-related deaths in the Mid-Ulster area in recent weeks," he added.

'Public interest'

At this point, the detective was interrupted by defence counsel for both men, who argued the information was not related to his clients' cases and should not be put forward.

However, the judge allowed the detective to continue, ruling "such comments are in the public interest".

The detective added: "I am trying to say there is a safety concern for the public. Both men are unemployed, but they clearly have funds to buy drugs.

"Police believe there is a strong likelihood of reoffending and feel there are no bail conditions which could prevent further offending. Police feel that, if bailed, they will return to offending to support themselves financially."

The judge agreed to release Stephen Currie on strict terms, including a £5,000 surety.

He is also ordered to have no contact with Loughlin, not to leave Northern Ireland and to surrender his passport.

The judge refused Currie Snr bail, citing concerns he is "wedded to a career as drug dealer".

The case is due back in court on 21 December.

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