An Iranian migrant who arrived in the United Kingdom as an unaccompanied child and who is facing a rape charge in Belfast was refused bail on Thursday.
arko Mahdi Dalir (21) is accused of raping a woman in an alleyway in the city centre in November 2018.
During today’s bail application, it emerged that Dalir travelled to Belfast to undertake the theory part of his driving test, which at the time hosted one of the very few centres to offer the test in Farsi.
It was during this brief period in Belfast that Dalir is accused of raping a woman in an alleyway near Little May Street.
His barrister Sean O’Hare said: “He disputes the circumstances of the alleged rape and maintains that any contact was consensual.”
The application was heard by Judge Neil Rafferty QC at Belfast Crown Court. Dalir, with an address at Sandringham Drive in Leeds, appeared at the hearing via a videolink with Hydebank.
Crown barrister Rosemary Walsh told Judge Rafferty that bail was opposed and said that since being granted High Court bail in December 2018, Dalir had recently breached several conditions.
Dalir was released on bail to an address in Leeds where he was being supervised by social services. However, Ms Walsh said that on June 26, his key worker reported that he had ‘been missing’ since June 17.
During this period Dalir breached his bail by failing to sign at a police station.
Ms Walsh said that in the intervening period, Dalir was stopped at Heathrow by officials. He didn’t have any money, a passport or travel documents and told officials it was his intention to travel to Austria where he has family.
He was again stopped by Immigration Services in Dublin after getting off a ferry from Holyhead, and was detained in Northern Ireland on July 13 where he again said he intended to go to Austria.
Saying there were “significant concerns that this defendant is seeking and will seek to flee the jurisdiction”, Ms Walsh highlighted several breaches of bail between June 17 and July 13.
Dalir’s barrister Sean O’Hare said his client first arrived in the UK five years ago as an ‘unaccompanied minor’, and that he lived in care and foster accommodation in Leeds, with the support of social services.
Mr O’Hare said Dalir has “no connections whatsoever” to Belfast, and at the time of the alleged rape his client was only here to undertake part of his driving test.
Saying Dalir was disputing the rape allegation, Mr O’Hare said the trial had been listed to start earlier this year, but due to Covid-19 and the lockdown, this didn’t happen.
This delay, Mr O’Hare said, added stress and pressure to his client who then tried to travel to Belfast “in order to try and advance the trial himself.”
Instead, he was stopped by the authorities in Dublin, with Mr O’Hare adding: “This naive idea that he could sort the case out himself speaks for his lack of guile.”
Mr O’Hare also revealed that after being returned to Hydebank in July, Dalir has been subjected to attacks by other inmates and is currently in isolation.
After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Judge Rafferty said he was refusing bail for two reasons.
Pointing out Dalir breached a previously imposed High Court order by failing to sign with police, Judge Rafferty also expressed concerns over a flight risk as he has “confessed or shown an intent or wish to travel to Austria.”
Judge Rafferty refused bail but said he will “draw this case to the attention” of his fellow Crown Court judges, and expressed the hope the trial will be given “some prioritisation.”