AN alleged former LVF leader facing 64 terrorist charges, including murder, attempted murder and directing terrorism and on whom police have compiled around 50,000 hours of surveillance tape recordings, has been freed on bail in the NI High Court.
William James Fulton (34), is a brother of Portadown loyalist Mark 'Swinger' Fulton. A close associate of murdered LVF leader Billy Wright, Mark Fulton was found dead in his prison cell.
The High Court was told William James, married with children, left Portadown for the US after the murder of Lurgan solicitor Rosemary Nelson in March 1999. He was later deported on suspicion of firearms and drugs offences and for using a false passport and identity.
Fulton lived in Plymouth for a while, where his home was bugged, his movements video-taped and hundreds of hours of his conversations with undercover police officers recorded. He was subsequently arrested and brought to Northern Ireland, where he was charged with murdering 59-year-old Elizabeth O'Neill, fatally injured when a pipebomb thrown into her home exploded as she picked it up in June 1999.
A prosecution lawyer objected to bail on the grounds Fulton might flee the jurisdiction and be encouraged to do so by the likely severity of any sentence he will face if convicted. But he conceded that defence counsel, Seamus Treacy, was right to say the case would collapse if the surveillance material, which is to be challenged, is ruled inadmissible.
Mr Treacy argued that with the likelihood of a trial date not being fixed until towards the end of this year and the case itself not coming to court until 2003, Fulton's continued prison custody was a breach of his human rights.
He pointed out that a number of people, including a mother and daughter, charged with terrorist offences along with Fulton, had already been granted bail on similar grounds.
After an adjournment to allow the lawyers to discuss bail conditions, the prosecution called a detective in the Nelson case who said: "The LVF is not on ceasefire and the organisation still strong and active."
Its powerbases were Portadown and mid-Ulster, north Belfast and Antrim. And he was concerned that if Fulton were allowed back to Portadown he'd become reinvolved.
The detective also said Fulton had been visited in prison by known LVF elements and once in Portadown he could "freely associate with the current powerbase".
Mr Justice Shiel granted Fulton #500 personal bail with separate sureties of #10,000 from his mother and brother.
Other conditions include he live with his family in Portadown, has no contact with any witnesses, reports daily to police and does not leave the UK.