Belfast Telegraph

Man told Continuity IRA chiefs where prison officer goes rambling with his kids, court hears

By Alan Erwin

A man allegedly supplied dissident republican terror chiefs with information on where a prison officer goes rambling with his children, the High Court heard today.

Joseph Pearce also told a secretly recorded meeting of suspected Continuity IRA leaders that British soldiers outside a university campus near Belfast would be "such a handy touch", prosecutors claimed.

Bail was refused to the 45-year-old allegedly referred to by a co-accused as providing a "world of information" on potential security force targets.

Pearce, Clogharevan Park in Bessbrook, Co Armagh is further accused of detailing how the location of a wealthy businessman's home makes him vulnerable to coercion and robbery.

He is charged with two counts of collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists based on a covert MI5 recording operation at a house in Newry, Co Down.

The house at Ardcarn Park was raided on November 10 after being bugged for three months.

Seven other men have already been charged with a range of terrorist offences based on this evidence.

During the gatherings discussions involved possessing weapons and procuring explosives, fund-raising, making and transporting a bomb and potential police and prison officer targets, it was claimed.

According to the prosecution Pearce attended just one of the bugged meetings, held in October.

The court heard that before he arrived co-accused Patrick Joseph Blair was recorded phoning and asking him to join the group.

Blair, 59 and from Villas Park, Dundalk, was remanded last month charged with directing terrorism and membership of a proscribed organisation.

Prosecution counsel said Blair could be heard telling others in the house that Pearce was a "world of information".

It was claimed that he said: "He (Pearce) must've given us about four different cops, five cops, the governor, that Brit."

Blair allegedly went on to claim that he was able to provide details of a specific police officer that enabled reconnaissance to be carried out.

Less than 20 minutes later Pearce arrived at the house and imparted a range of information during ongoing talks, according to the prosecution.

Mr Justice Treacy was told the group discussed a pet shop in Belfast frequented by loyalist paramilitaries.

Pearce then allegedly described the location of a businessman's home he had visited, the ease with which entry could be gained, the occupant's obvious wealth and vulnerability to coercion and robbery.

"He also tells how he was recently passing the college near Jordanstown, saw numerous British soldiers in uniform standing outside and described how they would be 'such a handy touch'," the prosecution lawyer said.

During the conversation it was claimed that he also named a man who recently joined the Army, giving details on where he lives.

Loyalists suspected of laundering drug money were also referred to, the court heard.

On being prompted Pearce allegedly then named a prison officer and described in detail his routine and leisure habits.

"He goes on to outline the address of a home of a relative who the prison officer often visits and how he goes rambling with his children from the address," the prosecutor added.

She claimed that the recordings picked up Pearce stating: "If you knew where the c*** lived, if you knew his motor, that..."

Opposing bail, she argued that even if he is not accused of taking part in terrorist activities, he has supplied inform to facilitate others.

The court heard police plan to speak with two of the individuals named in the conversations within the next few days.

Defence lawyers contended, however, that Pearce is accused of playing a lesser role than the others charged.

The alleged discussions about weapons and explosives took place before he arrived, it was stressed.

Barrister Kevin Magill also claimed some of the allegations against his client were based on potentially exaggerated hearsay evidence from Blair.

But refusing bail, Mr Justice Treacy pointed out that Pearce is alleged to have been "an enthusiastic provider of information".

He added: "It goes without saying in the context of this case, and the ongoing terrorist campaign being conducted by dissident organisations, that these are very serious charges.

"I consider the risk of further offences... is a matter of grave concern."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph