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Paul Campbell, accused of 1997 IRA bomb attack, can return to home town

By Alan Erwin

Published 17/05/2016

The scene of the bomb attack on Coalisland police station in 1997
The scene of the bomb attack on Coalisland police station in 1997
Paul Campbell

A Tyrone man accused of an IRA bomb attack on a Coalisland police station 19 years ago can return to live in the town again, a High Court judge ruled.

Prosecutors had opposed Paul Campbell's bid to go back to the family home, claiming there was a risk of interference with up to four civilian witnesses.

But Mr Justice Horner granted his application to vary bail after identifying delays in the proceedings.

He said: "It's an old case and it should have been prosecuted much more vigorously than at the minute."

Campbell, with an address at The Mills in Coalisland, is charged with causing an explosion with intent to endanger life at the town's police station back in 1997. The father-of-four was arrested at a railway station in Portadown, Co Armagh, last October. The court was previously told SAS soldiers opened fire on the suspected bombers on the night of the grenade attack.

One man shot at the scene was later convicted of the attack, serving two years of a 10-year prison sentence before being released as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

But a second suspect escaped in a Toyota car belonging to local parish priest Fr Seamus Rice amid a hail of bullets, according to the prosecution.

The cleric told police at the time he had slowed down upon hearing explosions and a man unknown to him jumped in the back and demanded that he drive off.

Based on modern DNA testing on bloodstains found in his car it was claimed that Campbell had been the injured passenger.

A man calling himself John Murphy was said to have arrived at a hospital in Co Louth following the bombing claiming to have been in a road accident.

But medical staff alerted gardai after they realised he had suffered a gunshot wound, the court heard. The patient was identified as Campbell and arrested for questioning in the Republic.

He was later released and returned to Coalisland, with information passed on to the police in Northern Ireland. It was accepted that no attempt to detain him again was made until 2011.

At that stage Campbell allegedly fled across the border to Co Monaghan after realising he was wanted. He was granted High Court bail last October to an address outside Coalisland.

Resisting his application for permission to return to the family home, prosecution counsel stressed the potential risk of interfering with civilian witnesses living in the area.

She said: "There are approximately three or four persons who aren't police or soldiers."

However, defence barrister Craig Patton argued that Campbell should be allowed to help his wife with their four children.

Granting the bail variation, Mr Justice Horner cited the children's rights to family life. The judge said Campbell is only allowed into a defined area of Coalisland, limited to getting to and from the family home.

Anywhere else in the town would be a breach of conditions.

Mr Justice Horner added: "This case must be prosecuted as soon as possible, it's an old offence and its not right that it should be hanging over this man's head."

Belfast Telegraph

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