Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

NI Director of Public Prosecutions fails in bid to increase sentence for man who built explosive devices

NI's Director of Public Prosecutions fails to increase the sentence imposed on a man who made devices planted at a Catholic primary school, community hall and GAA ground
NI's Director of Public Prosecutions fails to increase the sentence imposed on a man who made devices planted at a Catholic primary school, community hall and GAA ground

Northern Ireland's Director of Public Prosecutions failed today in a bid to increase the sentence imposed on a man who made devices planted at a Catholic primary school, community hall and GAA ground.

Barra McGrory QC argued that the two year probation order and 100 hours community service handed down to Ryan McDowell was unduly lenient.

He claimed the crude, fireworks-based devices had been strategically left at premises in order to intimidate Catholics in the north Antrim area.

But judges in the Court of Appeal dismissed his application, with reasons for their decision to be given at a later date.

McDowell, from Laurel Park, Ahoghill, Co Antrim, pleaded guilty to making and possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances.

Two of the devices contained banger-type explosives while a third was effectively a hoax.

They were all found on the same day in January 2011 at the entrances to St Paul's Primary School in Ahoghill, Clooney Community Centre and the Roger Casements GAA ground in Portglenone.

A judge at Belfast Crown Court heard they had been planted on behalf of a group calling itself the loyalist action force.

McDowell, 21, admitted having handled the devices after his DNA was recovered from tape used on them.

He was said to have been remorseful for his actions and later apologised to a local parish priest.

But appealing the sentence imposed last October, Mr McGrory argued there had been a particular motivation behind planting the devices.

Each of them was discovered at locations associated with Catholics in north Antrim.

"It's the prosecution case that the purpose of these devices was not necessarily to cause harm but to send out an intimidatory message to members of the Catholic community in the area," he told the Court of Appeal.

Rather than making a full confession straight away, judges were told McDowell's admissions were made on a "drip-feed" basis after forensic evidence emerged against him.

It was accepted, however, that no attempt was made to ignite the two viable devices, both of which were of limited scale.

Following submissions the three judge panel of Lord Justice Girvan, Lord Justice Coghlin and Mr Justice Deeny ruled against interfering with the sentence.

A written judgment will follow in due course.

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