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Man with 93 convictions granted bail as he faces charge of arson at Newtownhamilton house

The district judge said the 32-year-old, who has appeared in a court every year since 2005, had been a 'plague on the community'

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A man accused of the arson of a property in Newtownhamilton has been released on bail with conditions not to consume drugs or alcohol.

The district judge commented that the 32-year-old, who has appeared in a court every year since 2005, had been a “plague on the community”.

Robert Rushe, of Dungormley Estate, appeared charged with arson endangering life with intent and threats to damage property at Newry Magistrates’ on Wednesday, via videolink from Maghaberry.

The case was listed for the purposes of a bail application. None of the details were opened but the particulars outlined that on July 31, the defendant is alleged to have damaged a property in the Dungormley Estate by fire.

On the same date, Rushe is also accused of making a threat to damage a home.

Prosecution outlined that bail was objected to, with the defendant having 93 previous convictions including priors for arson and criminal damage.

There was a fear of interference with witnesses, due to Rushe’s close proximity to the alleged injured parties, and a concern for the public as the defendant had shown “disregard” for the safety of others.

Defence barrister Conor Byrne stated that the previous arson was from when his client was a “young man”.

He added that Rushe had no “wider family” with the address which had been put forward in the Dungormley Estate being his “only option”.

The barrister submitted that the case had the potential of going to the Crown Court and commented that this would take some time.

He stated: “Mr Rushe has a plethora of convictions most of which are a result of his drug and alcohol addictions. There are not many of a violent nature as this is not in his nature. This is the only matter which has him in custody.”

District Judge Eamon King said: “We are in the mouth of Christmas and you want me to release him. Not a year has gone by, since 2005, that he has not been before the court. He has been a plague on this community.

“Until he deals with his addictions, he is going to be in and out of custody and there is only himself to blame.”

Asking for his client to be given a chance, Mr Bryne stated that Rushe had dealt with his heroin addiction through the subutex programme.

He added that due to the pandemic, the defendant had not been able to avail of any courses within the prison to address his alcohol addiction issues.

Addressing Rushe, the district judge stated: “Quite plainly, the only reason that you appear before any court is because of the abuse of substances. One only has to look at your record over the last 15 years.

“But in the mouth of Christmas, I am going to grant you bail on the understanding that you do not consume alcohol or drugs and that you do not come to the attention of police.”

Rushe was released on his own bail of £250, with conditions that he have no contact with the alleged injured party, not to consume alcohol or drugs, to sign with police three times a week and observe a curfew between the hours of 10pm and 8am.

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