A “bored” 21-year-old Co Antrim man, who made a set of “crude” pipe bombs for a so-called “loyalist action force”, during a spate of sectarian 'tit-for-tat' attacks, has escaped a jail term.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told Ryan Stephen McDowell that instead of jail, or even a suspended sentence because of his his youth, remorse, exemplary work record and guilty pleas, he would be put on probation for two years.
He was also ordered to do 100 hours community service, preferably working on cross community projects.
The Belfast Crown Court judge said the whole episode was no doubt sectarian, meant to foment further greater disharmony, and to cause disruption, fear and annoyance on behalf of a little known loyalist group, although to describe them as such would possibly give them a status they do not deserve.
McDowell, from Laurel Park, Ahoghill, pleaded guilty to making the pipe bombs and possessing them between November 2010 and January 201, when they were placed on January 9, outside a primary school, a community hall and a GAA ground.
Defence QC Laurence McCrudden said the activities of remorseful McDowell, who later apologised to a local parish priest, had been born more out of boredom, than any motivation of ideology or resentment of others.
Mr McCrudden said the whole episode was “an amateurish a carry on as one could imagine”.
McDowell, he added, had a good work ethic and never been in trouble before and was always described as a pleasant and well mannered, and whose behaviour was out of character.
Prosecution counsel, Philip Henry said that in all three crude, firework based pipe-bomb type devices, one of which was not even deemed to be an explosive device were left at the entrances to St Paul's Primary School in Ahoghill, Clooney Community Centre and the Roger Casements GAA ground in Portglenone on January 9, 2011.
McDowell's DNA, the court heard, was later recovered from tape on the devices.
Tape matching that used, was also found in his bedroom in a follow-up police search.
At the time there were a number of similar incidents with attacks on Orange Halls and counter attacks on buildings belonging to their opposite number.
In his sentencing Judge McFarland also said it was “debatable” if the devices could be considered explosive materials, as defined by legislation.
He said that essentially they were no more than fireworks, wrapped in tape to form a pipe.
Judge McFarland said that “clearly” the devices were incapable of causing death or serious injury, although anyone picking up a device after the fuse had been lit could have suffered a hand injury, but that the chances of that were somewhat remote.
He added there was no intention to injure in this case.
However, the Recorder said that no doubt the whole matter was sectarian in nature and clearly part of some tit-for-tat scheme designed to cause greater disharmony within the community, although the explosives involved were at the very lowest level.