A man who hid a gun for paramilitaries has walked free from court after his 30-month jail term was suspended for four years.
Judge Tom Burgess said Gerard Martin Magee’s case had “depressing echoes of previous decades” where sinister groupings prevailed upon innocent people to hide weapons.
The Recorder of Belfast asked if inquiries could be made about the increasing number of similar cases and warned: “If this type of activity is on the increase then the sentences of the court will have to reflect that.”
Earlier he had heard that during a search of Magee's Distillery Street home on January 16 last year, he confessed that he had been hiding a Luger pistol and two bullets under his kitchen sink.
He told police he was keeping the weapon under duress as “refusing was not an option” but would not give any details.
He later pleaded guilty to possessing the firearm under suspicious circumstances.
Prosecuting lawyer Gary McCrudden told Belfast Crown Court that forensic examination revealed the weapon was made in 1934 and once the magazine pin was repaired, it was viable.