Dissident accused of police murder bid in 2013 refused bail
An alleged senior dissident republican paramilitary accused of trying to kill police officers must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled.
Lord Justice Gillen denied bail to Alex McCrory despite expressing concern that he will have spent more than two years behind bars before discovering if he is to stand trial.
He said: "Because of the nature of the offence and because of the alleged involvement of this applicant, it would not be in the public interest that he be granted bail."
McCrory (53) of Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast, faces charges connected to a gun attack on a police convoy in north Belfast.
A PSNI Land Rover and two accompanying vehicles came under fire on the Crumlin Road in December 2013. Two AK47 rifles and spent rounds of ammunition were later recovered along with a hijacked and burnt-out taxi.
McCrory faces charges of conspiring with co-accused Colin Duffy and Henry Fitzsimons (both 47) to murder members of the security forces and belonging to a proscribed organisation - namely the Irish Republican Army.
He is also accused of attempting to murder police officers, and possessing firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life. Charges were brought against him, Duffy, from Forest Glade in Lurgan, and Fitzsimons, of no fixed address, following a covert surveillance operation.
Security services recorded the three men meeting near Duffy's home a day after the gun attack, the prosecution allege.
According to a Crown lawyer, they held in-depth discussions about the attempt to kill officers and the weapons used.
The talks also centred on how future operations needed to focus on targets with a high likelihood of "getting a kill", the court heard. During the bail hearing, it was claimed that McCrory was central to the discussions.
Prosecution counsel alleged he made the "chilling" assertion that he would be "willing to do 15 years" if it meant a police officer being killed or seriously injured. McCrory's renewed bid to be released from custody centred on delays in deciding whether the three accused should stand trial.
Defence barrister Dessie Hutton argued that the hold-up was partly caused by problems reformatting audio and visual exhibits served on his client and solicitors. With the preliminary enquiry now re-listed for January, Mr Hutton stressed McCrory will have spent two years in custody before it is determined if he has a case to answer.
Ruling on the application, Lord Justice Gillen acknowledged the complexities involved.
"Whilst normally delays of this kind would be completely unacceptable, in this instance I do recognise that there are complicated factors because of the highly technical nature of this case," he said. Bail was refused due to the risk of re-offending.
However, the judge warned that McCrory may be released from custody if the preliminary enquiry does not go ahead as scheduled.