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Submachine gun discovered in Dunmurry house of the type used in dissident republican attacks, court hears

Forensic examinations have not established any link between Black and the weapon

A submachine gun seized from a house on the outskirts of Belfast as part of a police operation into paramilitary activity is capable of firing 850 rounds a minute, the High Court heard on Friday.

Prosecutors said the weapon and ammunition discovered at Damian Black's home last week was of the type used in dissident republican attacks on police.

Details emerged as the 47-year-old electrician, from Lagmore Glen in Dunmurry, was granted bail.

Black is charged with possessing a Skorpion submachine gun and five rounds of ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

He faces a further count of having a firearm designed or adapted so that two or more missiles can be discharged without repeat pressure on the trigger.

Officers found the weapon, bullets and magazine inside a blue bin in his garage on April 28.

They were located under a TV stand, tarpaulin and a dart board, the court heard.

A Crown lawyer disclosed: "It was a proactive operation into paramilitary activity."

Manufactured in the 1960s to be used by the Czechoslovakian army and special forces, he said the submachine gun can discharge up to 850 rounds a minute.

"Due to it's small caliber it's described as being very accurate when being fired in fully automatic mode," the barrister continued.

"At a distance of 15-20 metres police say the majority of rounds fired will be placed in a man-sized target."

Weapons of this type have been deployed in Northern Ireland by terrorist organisations including the Provisional IRA, INLA and IPLO, the court heard.

"Most recently such weapons have been used in attacks on the PSNI by dissident republican groupings," according to the prosecutor.

Stressing its dangerousness, he contended: "It's the police view... that it can only be used to cause death or very serious injury."

Forensic examinations have not established any link between Black and the weapon.

It was also confirmed that the father-of-two had declined to answer questions about the submachine gun, or to say if he had stored it under duress.

Opposing bail, the Crown lawyer added: "It's my submission that the weapon, if it was to be used, was to be used for violent criminal activity."

Dessie Hutton, defending, argued there is no evidence connecting his client to the gun.

Black has a clear record and faces no paramilitary-related charges, he emphasised.

Mr Hutton said: "At no stage during the interview process was it put to this applicant that he was a terrorist, affiliated to or a supporter of any organisation."

Granting bail, Mr Justice Colton ordered the accused to abide by a night-time curfew.

He must also surrender any passport and is banned from leaving Northern Ireland.

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