Hotel and staff ‘targeted over bar on suspected drug dealers’

The Belmont Hotel in Banbridge
The Belmont Hotel in Banbridge

The owners of a Banbridge hotel have been subjected to a year-long campaign of arson and intimidation for barring suspected drug dealers from their nightclub, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors claimed 17 cars have been set alight as part of alleged attempts to menace those running the Belmont Hotel.

Details emerged during a bail application by a man accused of torching a vehicle two weeks ago.

Robert Foster, 39, of Hillhead Gardens, Banbridge, faces one charge of arson and possession of Class B drugs.

He is alleged to have been involved in setting fire to a Ford Fiesta found burnt out at Hillhead Walk in the town on September 24.

According to prosecution barrister Conor Maguire the vehicle’s owner worked at the Belmont Hotel.

Another vehicle belonging to him was destroyed in a similar attack earlier last month, the court heard.

Mr Maguire claimed that since September last year a campaign has been directed at the owners of the Belmont, their relatives and staff. Alleged incidents included:

l 17 arson attacks on cars;

l five episodes of criminal damage to vehicles;

l 12 incidents of graffiti involving the hotel;

l four incidents of criminal damage to the hotel;

l five alleged attempts to intimidate staff.

Mr Maguire said police believe the owners have been targeted over their stance in denying nightclub admission to individuals suspected of supplying drugs.

Foster is only accused of involvement in the September 24 arson attack.

He is alleged to have been identified buying firelighters from a shop in the town earlier that night.

Anonymous calls to Crimestoppers also form part of the case against him, according to the prosecution.

The court heard he claimed to have bought the firelighters for a barbeque.

It was further claimed that during searches of his home a small quantity of suspected Mephedrone was discovered.

Foster’s bail application was adjourned due to issues over a suitable address and ongoing investigations.

The judge, Lord Justice Coghlin, also stressed that police owe a duty to reassure those who take a stand against drug dealing.