'Reluctant storeman' jailed for hiding guns and ammo
A "reluctant storeman" who was caught with an arsenal of weapons, including an AK47 rifle, has been jailed for three years.
Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told Thomas John Edwards he accepted he had been under a degree of pressure from others to store the items.
The 49-year-old will serve half of a six-and-a-half year sentence in jail and half on supervised licence.
Just before his trial was due to start last July, Edwards pleaded guilty to having guns, ammunition and explosives with intent to enable others to endanger life on August 10, 2011. He also admitted possessing a balaclava and providing property, namely his home, for terrorism.
Prosecutor Ciaran Murphy told Belfast Crown Court that police found the items during a search of Edwards' house at Meadowbrook, Tullygalley, in Craigavon.
The lawyer said the most serious item was an AK47 assault rifle and bullets discovered in a black bag in an airing cupboard.
A grip stock and trigger mechanism for a recoil-free improvised grenade launcher was found in a bag in a kitchen cupboard while 5.1 grammes of black powder, which turned out to be small arms propellant, was hidden inside a pepper pot. An automatic Beretta pistol and loaded magazine wrapped in a yellow duster was also in the cupboard.
Mr Murphy added that police found a total of 46 bullets and explained that small arms propellant was commonly used in pipe bombs while a grenade launcher was first used in an attack in Belfast in 1991 but "has been encountered on a number of other occasions".
When defence QC Martin O'Rourke submitted that the weapons came into Edwards' possession a few days before the search, Mr Murphy conceded he could not produce evidence to contradict that or the claims that Edwards was "under pressure" to store them.
As well as the jail term, Judge McFarland order the destruction of the guns, bullets and other items.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Glenn Wright said the weapons had posed a serious threat to security forces and the public.
He added: This is yet another example of the PSNI's determination to protect the community and bring terrorists to justice."