Belfast Telegraph

Audio recordings revealed as man accused of mortar plot is denied bail

BY ALAN ERWIN

A mortar bomb attack was being planned on a security force vehicle in Co Armagh, the High Court heard.

Prosecutors also claimed reconnaissance was used against police and prison staff, including a governor, over a two-year period. Suspects allegedly drove past one target's home more than 50 times in eight days, a judge was told.

Details emerged as bail was refused to one of three men accused of a plot to bomb and kill.

Damien Duffy (43), of Campbell Walk, Lurgan, faces charges of conspiracy to murder, conspiring to cause an explosion, and collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists.

Duffy was arrested in May last year following a nine-month police investigation involving surveillance, tracking and covert recordings.

The alleged offences, stretching back to November 2009, relate to PSNI and prison officers' movements in the Lurgan and Craigavon areas, their addresses and routes taken to and from work.

Counsel for the prosecution claimed audio recordings showed the Kilmore Road and Cottage Road junction in Lurgan was to be used for a mortar bomb attack on security forces. The location is on a route regularly used by police and prison staff, the court heard.

Alleged discussions between the suspects included references to lines of sight, getting angles right and breaking cover.

The barrister also claimed attack planning was carried out on two identified prison officers.

Lord Justice Coghlin was told the prison governor's home in a rural setting was passed several times for no apparent legitimate reason.

Turning to the information gathering charges, the barrister claimed two of the accused scouted one officer's home on 54 occasions – including 21 times in a 90-minute period.

According to police, anti-surveillance techniques such as checking back on themselves and U-turns were performed.

Discussions about areas for carrying out an attack, escape routes and "giving it 20 seconds to get down there" were allegedly recorded.

It was accepted that forensic analysis of the audio recordings was unable to attribute any of the remarks to Damien Duffy. But independent witnesses put him in the car used during the alleged offences, it was alleged.

Mark Mulholland QC, defending, argued that Duffy should be released due to the "paucity" of evidence and delays in processing the case.

"The starting point is what can be attributed to this accused, and at no time is there any express reference to targeting, weaponry or anything of that nature," he said.

"What appears to be a case grounded principally on what can be inferred or speculated was at hand does not pass muster.

"In the period of time the accused was under surveillance absolutely nothing happened."

Refusing bail, however, Lord Justice Coghlin pointed out that an explanation will eventually have to be given.

Separating the alleged terrorist offences from other crimes, the judge said: "It's nothing whatever to do with the political beliefs of those charged.

"It's to do with a very small group of people who are not prepared to take part in a democracy but wish to achieve what they believe to be some form of political end by killing and injuring.

"In cases of terrorism the offence is driven by a warped political ideology.

"Therefore there is a significantly higher risk of further offences."

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