Jail for two men caught with rifle linked to dissident gang
Two men have been jailed for a total of six years after they were caught with a rifle linked to dissident republicans following a covert police surveillance operation.
Mark Anthony Patrick Kerr (26), of Carrabane Walk in Londonderry, and Michael Anthony Taylor (45), of Bishop Street in the city, pleaded guilty in January at Belfast Crown Court to possessing a Magnum rifle with intent to endanger life almost three years ago.
Kerr also pleaded guilty to possessing a length of commercial detonating cord in suspicious circumstance on the same date, August 2, 2011.
Taylor was sentenced to seven years, with three years to be spent in custody and four on licence after his release.
His co-accused Kerr was sentenced to six years, with half in custody and half on licence.
A prosecution lawyer told Belfast Crown that the guilty pleas to having the rifle were accepted on the basis of "second limb possession'', in that they were holding the weapon for someone else intending to endanger life or cause injury to property.
A charge of possessing the rifle under suspicious circumstances was 'left on the books' and was not proceeded against both men.
Similarly, in Kerr's case, a charge of of possessing the detonating cord with intent to endanger life was also left on the books. The Crown lawyer told Judge Corinne Philpott QC that on August 2, 2011, police carried were carrying out a surveillance operation in Derry, both on the ground and in the air.
He said that around 8.02pm, police stopped a red Peugeot 406 which was being watched by police who noticed the driver, Kerr, was wearing white gloves.
"After the car was stopped, Kerr was seen to take the gloves off and put them in his lap,'' said the lawyer.
A search of the car revealed a red holdall bag containing a semi-automatic Remington Model 597 Homady Magnum .117 rifle.
"He was taken from the car and indicated that the car belonged to him and said: 'I have been told to drive the car with the bag to the square'," he added.
The deputy Belfast Recorder was told that Kerr denied being a member of a paramilitary organisation.
The court heard that unknown to both Kerr and Taylor, police had mounted a surveillance operation and both men were being closely followed by police officers.
The prosecuting lawyer said that Taylor was seen going into the Abercorn Bar and was watched by police as he left.
Taylor was later seen by police talking into the passenger window of Kerr's Red Peugeot car.
Police then moved in, arresting Kerr at the car, and Taylor was detained a short distance away.
During a search of Kerr's car, police recovered a metre-long length of detonating cord which contained PETN explosives.
The judge was told that Kerr had no relevant criminal convictions. However, the lawyer said that Taylor was jailed in 1995 at Belfast Crown Court for an explosives offence.
The court heard that on January 27, 1994, Taylor was seriously injured in a bomb explosion in Derry.
In a follow-up operation police recovered a Mark 16 mortar and fins which appeared to be in the process of "setting it up to be fired'' when the bomb detonated prematurely.