Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Man who took part in pipe bomb-style attack fails to have convictions overturned

A man who took part in a sectarian pipe bomb-style attack has failed in a bid to have his convictions overturned.

Judges in the Court of Appeal today rejected claims that the jury who found Gareth Edward Marcus had been misdirected.

Marcus (23) of Martinville Park, Belfast, received a four-year jail term, suspended for three years, for his part in the attack on a Catholic man's home.

A firework-based device covered in nails was thrown though a broken window of the property in the city's Donegall Road area on July 13, 2010.

It exploded in a hallway as the occupier was taking shelter.

Marcus was stopped by police the same morning and linked to the incident by DNA testing of a cut to his hand and blood found at broken glass in the house.

He later claimed he had been asked to put a firework in a "taig's house", and only agreed because he was drunk.

According to his account he refused to ignite the device but did break a window for it to be thrown in.

Marcus insisted it was a one-off incident out of character and denied ever being sectarian, adding that he had a Catholic girlfriend.

But following a trial at Belfast Crown Court in December 2012 he was convicted of possessing explosives with intent to endanger life and causing an explosion likely to endanger life.

Challenges were mounted to the guilty verdicts returned on both counts.

His lawyers argued there had been a number of flaws in directions given to the jury, including on the issue of intention.

However, the three-judge appeal panel rejected contentions that the wording used rendered the verdict unsafe.

Lord Justice Girvan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, also dismissed submissions that the the jury should have been told to consider whether there was any evidence consistent with Marcus being innocent of the specific charges.

He also held that to separately classify direct and circumstantial evidence, and deliver a specific additional direction risks over-complicating matters for a jury.

Lord Justice Girvan confirmed: "Reading the trial judge's charge to the jury as a whole, we are not persuaded that this verdict is unsafe on this ground."

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