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Alleged dissident accused of trying to murder police gets bail to attend child's first communion

By Alan Erwin

Published 14/05/2015

Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.
Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.

An alleged senior dissident republican charged with trying to murder police officers can be released from custody to attend his child's first communion, a High Court judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Weir extended Henry Fitzsimons' temporary compassionate bail after the accused gave a personal pledge to honour all conditions.

Fitzsimons, 46, faces a series of terrorist charges linked to a gun attack on a police convoy in north Belfast back in December 2013.

He is alleged to have conspired with co-accused Colin Duffy and Alex McCrory to kill security force members.

Other counts against him include attempting to murder members of the PSNI, conspiracy to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life, aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm, and belonging to a proscribed organisation - namely the Irish Republican Army.

A police Landrover and two other vehicles came under fire as they travelled along the Crumlin Road.

Two AK47 rifles and 14 spent rounds of ammunition were later recovered along with a hijacked and burnt-out taxi the gunmen used for their getaway.

Fitzsimons, of no fixed address, was later arrested along with Duffy, 46, from Forest Glade in Lurgan, Co. Armagh, and McCrory, 53, of Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast.

Their detention followed secret recordings of an alleged meeting the trio held in the grounds of a large country house near Duffy's home a day after the shooting incident.

According to the prosecution they were taped for more than an hour holding a "leadership command discussion regarding the IRA, its activities and future direction".

Talks involved the Crumlin Road attack, the loss of the AK47s, burning out the getaway car and whether the gunmen would be recognised, the court heard.

Criticism was said to have been vented that the rifles were not cleaned before the attack - an apparent reference to one of the guns having jammed.

Only those with knowledge of the shooting could have known those details, it was argued.

All three men present were allegedly active participants in operational talks which also explored:

:: Future attacks and the availability of firearms and ammunition.

:: Finance and the organisation's future direction.

:: The amount of weapons and Semtex at their disposal.

During the meeting it was allegedly stated that in future the only operations cleared would be ones with a high percentage chance of "getting a kill" or at least doing damage.

Prosecution counsel also claimed that in the conversation about the tactics for an attack on police one of them said it was "perfect for a shoulder-launcher".

They were said to have displayed knowledge of attacks on police in other areas such as Derry and they discussed how they would like rifles with armour-piercing rounds.

Although Fitzsimons had already been granted magistrates' permission to attend church for the first communion ceremony, he was seeking an extended release to go to a private, family gathering.

Opposing his application, the prosecutor said: "Police are saying these are serious charges and there's a risk of re-engaging."

But Mr Justice Weir was told Fitzsimons got out for a similar event last year and abided by all conditions.

He asked the accused: "Do you promise me on your own word that if you're released on bail in the same way you will honour bail?"

Fitzsimons, who appeared by prison video-link, replied: "I will, one hundred percent."

Following that assurance the judge told him: "You can go to your family gathering, but be back by five o'clock. Have a nice day."

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