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Teen facing charges linked to north Belfast bomb 'radicalised by dissident republicans', court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 05/11/2015

A 19-year-old man facing charges linked to a bomb discovery in north Belfast may have been "radicalised" by dissident republicans, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors also claimed Conal Corbett purchased top-up vouchers for one of the mobile phones used in an operation aimed at killing police officers.

Corbett was granted bail, however, after a judge was told it could take several months to complete forensic work.

Lord Justice Gillen said: "I'm gravely concerned he will remain in custody for perhaps over a year and a half before this case comes on for trial."

Corbett, of Flax Street in Belfast, was arrested as part of the investigation into the sophisticated device discovered at the junction of the Crumlin Road and Brompton Park in May this year.

He is charged with two counts of possessing articles for terrorist-related purposes - namely a mobile phone and top-up vouchers purchased days earlier.

He is further accused of having a document or record likely to be of use in terrorism - handwritten instructions on operating an assault rifle allegedly found inside a doorbell ringer at his flat.

The remote-controlled bomb had been hidden in advertising hoarding at a bookmakers in the area.

Prosecution counsel said it was located close to where police attend continuing daily protests over a banned Orange Order parade through Ardoyne.

The device was eventually discovered after a local priest was phoned and alerted to its presence.

At the time a PSNI commander claimed the device had been intended to kill or injure officers.

A closed network of approximately five phones were involved in the bomb plot, the court heard.

Corbett is alleged to have purchased a mobile and top-up vouchers suspected of being used for contact with the so-called bomb warning phone.

"This device could have had devastating (consequences)," the prosecution lawyer claimed.

Lord Justice Gillen was told the rifle instructions were found during searches at the defendant's home on May 7.

A "naive" poem expressing views in support of Irish Republicanism was also seized.

Following his detention Corbett  was said to have requested a transfer in custody from the young offenders centre to the separated Roe House wing at HMP Maghaberry.

The unit houses some describing themselves as aligned to "the New IRA".

Opposing bail, the prosecutor contended: "He's a young man clearly influenced by Irish Republicanism.

"The concern is that he has, to use a phrase used in England, been radicalised."

But the judge granted bail due to the expected delays in completing forensic work.

He ruled that public protection can be ensured by imposing a series of conditions, including a ban on entering the Ardoyne area.

Corbett was also prohibited from having a mobile phone and ordered to abide by a curfew and electronic monitoring.

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