Prisoner’s plea to see boyfriend in jail


A LISNASKEA woman charged with driving her partner from the scene of an alleged attempted murder, has begged a judge to allow her to visit him in prison so she can hug him.
Nichola Leonard (27), with addresses at Rossorry Church Road, Enniskillen and Strule Park, Omagh is accused of assisting an offender, as well as aiding and abetting both attempted murder and wounding.
She made the plea during a third application for variation of her bail terms, when she also asked for her electronic tag to be removed while she attends a wedding, as it “would not look good in photographs”.
The offences relate to an incident on 8 October 2016, during which it is alleged Leonard acted to impede the detection of her partner, Brendan McLaughlin who is charged with attempted murder of one male victim and malicious wounding of another. Leonard allegedly drove McLaughlin from the scene afterwards.
McLaughlin is in custody on these matters while Leonard is on bail with very strict terms. One of these includes no contact by any means with McLaughlin. Two previous bail applications to be allowed contact failed but her defence counsel again mounted an application for Leonard to be allowed “a short supervised visit in prison”.
Dungannon Crown Court heard that a lot of the defendant’s problems and offending are associated with and attributed to her relationship with her co-accused. In addition there is evidence of a recorded telephone call in which the defendant stated her intention to ‘skip’ with McLaughlin once he is released. “
Judge Neill Rafferty QC remarked: “There are concerns a visit would be used to surreptitiously get their stories straight. The defendant is viewed as a vulnerable and erratic individual.”
The prosecution suggested if a prison visit is granted, an officer of the court should be present throughout, but Judge Rafferty was reluctant on this point. He instead suggested a “closed box” meeting could be arranged.
Speaking from the dock, a sobbing Leonard replied: “No. I want to touch him. I want to hug him.”
The judge decided McLaughlin should be brought to court from prison this week and a visit would be facilitated, adding: “I cannot control what happens in prison but I can control what happens in court.”
The judge was advised that Leonard is attending a wedding later this month and wanted her electronic tag removed as it wouldn’t look good in photographs. The defence said Leonard has been working well with Probation Services, which was countered by the prosecution.
The judge declined to rule on this point and adjourned it for consideration on the next occasion, when Leonard is scheduled to have the visit with McLaughlin.

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