NewsNorthern Ireland

Court hears Irish student facing hoax bomb threat charges has severe autism

Northern IrelandBy Sunday World
Belfast Magistrates' Court
Belfast Magistrates' Court

A student accused of making hoax bomb threats to major US airports and a high school which was the scene of a gun massacre has severe autism, a court has been told.

Ben Megarry, 19, faces 23 counts of issuing bomb threats against buildings and landmarks right across the United States.

Included on his list of alleged targets was Columbine High School in Colorado where, in 1999, two students murdered a teacher and 12 fellow pupils.

He is also accused of making threats against JFK airport in New York and LAX airport in Los Angeles. Megarry, from Newtownabbey on the outskirts of Belfast, is also alleged to have communicated a threat to popular tourist spot Mann's Chinese Theatre in LA.

The other alleged recipients of bomb threats were Chico High School, Mar Vista High School, Terra Linda High School and Malibu High School, all in California; Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida; Shepton High School in Plano, Texas; the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit; the Walmart Store in Frederickson Town, Missouri; Royal Stadium, Kansas; and Kansas International Airport.

Megarry is accused of making threats to a number of the properties and landmarks on more than one occasion. He is alleged to have threatened Columbine High School on three occasions.

Megarry, from Harmin Park, Newtownabbey, was 15 at the time of the alleged offences, which are said to have been committed over a six month period in 2012.

He faces 23 counts of communicating false information to cause a belief of an explosion.

His case reached the floor of a courtroom for the first time on Thursday.

Defence lawyer Michael Madden told a district judge at Belfast Magistrates' Court the case was not yet in a position to proceed.

Applying for an adjournment, Mr Madden said: "The defendant is severely autistic and the family have been supported by a number of charities including Autism NI and they have suggested using an intermediary service."

District Judge Liam McNally described the case as "interesting" and said he believed the intermediary services were not generally applicable to magistrates' courts.

But he conceded there may be some exceptions.

The judge also said the court would not have a problem with someone sitting in the dock alongside the defendant.

Judge McNally said: "I will adjourn this for no more than two weeks so that the matter can be investigated."

The case is expected to proceed on March 10.