Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man jailed for storing Semtex, guns and bullets in parents home for dissidents

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 47-year old west Belfast man was handed a seven-year sentence, to serve half in jail, on Thursday after he admitted storing Semtex, guns and bullets for dissident Republicans in his parents' home.

Almost two years after 651 grams of the explosive substance was found at a house in Ballymurphy, Kevin Nolan was jailed for terrorist offences at Belfast Crown Court.

Passing sentence, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said the amount of Semtex could have been used to create a "large and destructive device" but accepted Nolan had been "passively storing the items for potential future use" by others.

Nolan, from Stewartstown Road, was informed he will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remaining half of the term spent on supervised licence. His name will also appear on the Anti-Terrorist list for 15 years.

Despite initially denying all the offences and claiming he found a bag containing what he thought was drugs and money in the City Cemetery, Nolan now admits that when he worked in a taxi company, he was approached and asked to keep the items.

The Semtex was discovered along with two guns, detonators and assorted ammunition during a police search which took place September 17, 2015

Amongst the items was a holdall containing Baikai gas pistol and a revolver, over 300 bullets and Semtex, which was wrapped in cling film. Also found were two improvised detonators, and when a second bedroom was searched, a black balaclava was located, along with a large plastic tub containing more rounds of ammunition.

Nolan was arrested at his partner's home in Sunderland a few days after the discovery, and was brought back to Antrim Serious Crime Suite for questioning.

Since his arrest, Nolan has made a series of claims regarding the Semtex - including a version that he saw two men in the City Cemetery leave a plastic bag in a hedge.

He told police that after they left, he went to the hedge, found the bag and brought it back to his parents' house as he thought it contained drugs and money. He also claimed that when he opened the bag in the bedroom, he was "shocked" to discover the guns and bullets, as he thought the Semtex was infact cannabis resin - or as he called it "a whack of dope."

He also told police that whilst in Sunderland, he was aware dissident republicans in Belfast were looking for items taken from them at a graveyard.

This version of events was branded as a "total fabrication" by the Crown, who said that Nolan's claims - including a bag of Semtex and guns being left in a cemetery - were "utterly incredulous."

At a previous hearing Nolan admitted possessing the firearms, a Baikai gas pistol and a revolver - as well as a variety of bullets between May 1 and September 18, 2015, in suspicious circumstances.

Today, his barrister Eilish MacDermott QC asked that he be re-arraigned on several charges he initially denied. When the charges were put to him again -  including possessing 651 grams of the commercial explosives, and two improvised electric detonators, both with intent to endanger life, as well as possessing articles for use in terrorism, namely a black balaclava - Nolan replied "guilty."

The pleas were entered on the grounds that Nolan never intended to use any of the items found, but rather he was facilitating the future use by others by storing the items.

Ms MacDermott revealed that after being approached by others to store the items, Nolan felt under pressure from them.

Pointing out that he moved to his partner's home in Sunderland not long after receiving the items and was making plans to secure work, Ms MacDermott said it was always his intention to protect his family and made sure his parents didn't suffer for his actions.

The barrister also revealed that whilst on remand for the offences, Nolan never asked to be moved to the republican wing, and was amongst the general prison population.

Ms McDermott also reminded the court that her client came before the court with no criminal record, that "he was never arrested in his life before for any reason", and that as a result of events Nolan has been the subject of several threats.

Nolan's barrister also revealed that when he is released from prison, it is his intention to move away from Northern Ireland.

Sending Nolan to jail, Judge Kerr said he accepted the 47-year old was put under a degree of pressure by others, and that for a significant period he was not in physical control over the items as he was in England.

The Judge did, however, point out the potential damage items such as Semtex and guns could cause.

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