Following yesterday’s hearing at Southwark Crown Court, Sabine McNeill has been granted bail, and the £20,000 security which was crowdfunded by Belinda, Angela, and Sabine’s own solicitor among others was accepted by the court.
HH Judge Beddoe acknowledged that crowd-funding a bail security does devalue the intent behind the security, as it creates a situation in which those providing the security are in fact dividing the risk amongst themselves, thus potentially reducing the onus on the defendant to comply with bail conditions. However, he said that since this method of obtaining money for a bail security is still novel, no case law currently exists which would prohibit the court from accepting it.
The judge retired to consider the matter. When court resumed, he said that Sabine would be granted bail, but that it would come with increased and more closely defined restrictions.
Prior to her release from prison, Sabine must:
- Surrender all internet-enabled devices;
- Secure £20k; and
- Surrender her passport and any other items which might enable her to apply to abscond.
Post-release, Sabine is prohibited from using the internet in any way. In addition, she is required to obey the following conditions:
- She must supply details of her phone to the police, and she is not permitted to use any other phone;
- She is to have no communications with any media, and she is not permitted to publish any content, directly or indirectly;
- She is not permitted to apply for any documents which might enable her to leave the country;
- She must reside at at her stated address; and
- She is not permitted to act as a McKenzie friend.
It is not clear to us whether Belinda attended court yesterday. Nor is it clear whether the pre-release conditions were met, enabling Sabine to leave Bronzefield prison.
Sabine’s next court date will be 8 January 2018, at which time we expect her trial date may be set. She currently faces 19 charges in total: four of stalking causing alarm or distress, and 15 counts of violating the lifetime restraining order placed upon both Sabine and Neelu Berry in July 2016. Sabine has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Updated to add:
Belinda has now offered an explanation for her absence at yesterday’s bail security hearing: she feared arrest once the court was informed of the true provenance of the £20,000 bail security.
She states that “certain parties in the shadows were bent on trying to scupper Sabine’s bail and entangle me in criminal proceedings as well!”
This seems a very odd conclusion to draw, unless one assumes that Belinda’s conscience, or perhaps just her instinct for self-preservation, was pricked in some way.
As it is, Belinda’s claim that the money had come from “close friends of Sabine or my own Facebook friends” does seem to stretch the truth. Rather, many donors seemed to be connected to Belinda or Sabine by the thinnest, most gossamer of threads. Some had no idea what they were donating to, as evidenced by the comments on various Facebook discussions. We suspect that had the court been correctly informed of this, rather than being assured that only “eight donors” were involved, the judge’s decision yesterday might have been different.