Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Top loyalist kept banner for illegal paramilitary group as 'collector's item', court told

By Alan Erwin

Published 20/08/2016

Court: Mark Harbinson
Court: Mark Harbinson

A banner for an outlawed group seized with a gun from the home of a prominent loyalist was being kept as a collector's item, the High Court heard yesterday.

Mark Harbinson bought the Orange Volunteers standard after it was flown during the Drumcree marching dispute 20 years ago, his lawyer claimed.

Harbinson (49) faces a weapons charge linked to a semi-automatic pistol, silencer, bullets and balaclavas found during searches at his Sheepwalk Road address in Lisburn, Co Antrim.

His latest bid to secure bail was refused amid police fears he could flee if released.

Harbinson denies a charge of possessing a firearm, 28 rounds of ammunition and a silencer with intent to endanger life.

He was detained in England 10 days after the seizures were made on December 21 last year.

Police discovered the disassembled pistol, silencer and bullets inside a biscuit tin in the rafters of a barn at his home.

A shebeen-style drinking den was said to contain items associated with the Orange Volunteers, including a banner for the proscribed loyalist grouping.

Harbinson, who rose to prominence after speeches made during protests over the ban on Orangemen parading from Drumcree Church in Portadown was not present during the searches.

Later that day, armed response police attempted to stop a car belonging to him on country roads between Moira and Lisburn, the court heard.

The pursuit reached speeds of more than 100mph, with the vehicle forcing other motorists off the road, according to the prosecution.

Harbinson later denied being behind the wheel, claiming to have loaned his car to a diesel fitter he declined to identify.

It was alleged that he crossed the border after someone brought him his passport, clothes and £7,000 in cash.

From there, he travelled to England to stay with friends in Cumbria, the court heard.

English police, backed up by officers from the PNSI, launched an operation to arrest him on New Year's Eve. Specialist firearm teams and a police negotiator were drafted in.

The former Orangeman was said to have escaped as officers moved in, before finally being captured.

Although he previously served a prison sentence for an unrelated offence, his licence was revoked due to the fresh allegations against him.

With his period behind bars on licence due to expire at the end of October, he was seeking court permission to obtain temporary home leave.

Opposing the application for limited bail, prosecutor Kate McKay said: "That would give him an opportunity to flee."

Defence counsel Craig Patton claimed Harbinson left Northern Ireland while suffering depression.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Deeny pointed out: "It's not merely an apprehension that he may flee, but based on the fact he did flee before."

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph