Larne arson accused has links to ‘loyalist paramilitary grouping’

Fire crews at the scene in the Killyglen Road area of Larne
Fire crews at the scene in the Killyglen Road area of Larne

A factory worker accused of setting fire to a car crashed into a house as part of a feud in a Co Antrim town must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Treacy said he was refusing bail to 34-year-old Stephen Lynch in order to protect the community in Larne.

Lynch is charged with carrying out an arson attack at the Killyglen Road property on April 23.

He is also accused of threats to kill and intimidation in connection with the people living there.

Prosecutors claim the case relates to an ongoing criminal feud in the town.

It was also alleged that Lynch, of Shanlea Drive in Larne, has links to a loyalist paramilitary grouping.

CCTV footage was said to show him crashing his Peugeot car into the house and then getting out of the vehicle, apparently unsteady on his feet.

The footage depicted him setting light to a jacket and placing it in the footwell before flames engulfed the abandoned car, according to the case against him.

Lynch was also allegedly filmed kicking a window and shouting at the property.

No-one was in the house, which was badly damaged in the incident.

Defence counsel Neil Moore told the court his client accepted the arson, but denied any threats or intimidation.

He claimed Lynch had been fuelled by drink and lost control after being “taunted” by another man.

“There was no criminal planning behind this, to use your own car is nonsensical,” Mr Moore argued.

“He’s staggering about while attempting to light the car, it’s quite clear he was highly intoxicated.”

The barrister added that Lynch realises he must now face the consequences, but wanted bail to spend time with his family and put his affairs in order.

Denying the application, however, Mr Justice Treacy cited the continuing dispute in the town.

“There are people on both sides of the feud it would appear are at risk, not to mention the general community,” he said.

“This is not a case where it would be appropriate to grant bail.”