Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland boy (14) tried to buy sub-machine gun on 'dark web', court told

By Nevin Farrell

A 14-year-old boy attempted to purchase a machine gun during his school break, a court has been told.

The boy from the Ballymoney area was arrested in Riverside Retail Park on Thursday.

He appeared in Ballymena Magistrates Court at the weekend wearing a hoodie and tracksuit bottoms. He was allowed to sit outside the dock beside his father.

A police officer said the authorities had been monitoring an attempt to acquire a live firearm through the 'dark web' and after obtaining covert evidence an operative was in place when the boy attended a meeting about buying the weapon.

The officer said the accused had £150 cash on him to buy 100 rounds of ammunition, and the boy believed he could further purchase a sub-machine gun.

She added the accused said he wanted to "intimidate a third party" with the gun. The officer said: "He got out of school to perform this meeting at break time."

The boy was charged with attempting to possess a PPSh43 sub-machine gun and 100 rounds of ammunition with intent to endanger life between March 23 and April 7 this year.

Opposing bail, the officer said when cautioned the boy claimed he was "asked to pick up the package".

She said he told police a Jamaican man he had known for a year and had met around 15 times had asked him to pick up a "deactivated" gun.

The officer said she believed if released there was a risk of harm to others, and said his account about a Jamaican man who lived in Northern Ireland that he knew through Facebook was "somewhat unbelievable".

The officer said the accused's Facebook was checked and a laptop was seized from him.

Defence solicitor Derwin Harvey said when originally charged there had been no mention of the "intent to endanger life".

He argued that there was no evidence to support any notion of intent.

The boy's father told the court he could strictly monitor bail conditions.

The boy was released on £500 bail to appear at Coleraine Magistrates Court on April 24.

He must abide by a 10pm to 8am curfew and is banned from having any phone or computer that can access the internet.

He also must sign in and sign out of school.

District Judge Liam McNally told him if he breached bail by "dabbling in the internet" he would be remanded in the Juvenile Justice Centre until the case goes to court, which could be more than six months away.

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