Belfast Telegraph

Two men stopped in a car with a loaded gun during suspected terrorist operation to have their prison terms reduced, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Two men stopped in a car with a loaded gun during a suspected terrorist operation are to have their prison terms reduced, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

Although senior judges dismissed Mark McGuigan's challenge to his conviction for having the revolver with intent to endanger life, they cut his sentence from 12 to 10 years.

Co-defendant Darryn McCallion's original seven-year term is to be brought down to five years.

Both of them had been with another two men in a Ford Fiesta intercepted near Omagh, Co Tyrone in October 2010.

The four were detained at night on the Gorticashel Road at following a police surveillance operation.

A hold-all recovered from the car contained a reactivated 38 Webley revolver hidden in a sock. Assorted ammunition was also seized.

Adjustments to the firing pin would have been required for the gun to function properly.

McGuigan, 30, was convicted at Belfast Crown Court in November 2013.

McCallion, 26; Martin McLoone, 26; and 34-year-old Daniel John Turnbull were also jailed after pleading guilty to the same offence.

Police had monitored the Fiesta's movements as it travelled to a forest to pick up McCallion and McCloone. One of them was carrying the hold-all.

McGuigan, who was driving, allegedly tried to reverse when confronted with an unmarked police car with flashing lights.

It was claimed that he initially refused to get into the police vehicle, shouting "Tiocfaidh ar La" - the Irish republican slogan which translates as "Our day will come."

During follow-up searches police also recovered a sub-machine gun and ammunition from another vehicle belonging to Turnbull.

During the appeal hearing prosecution counsel submitted that the four men were on a clandestine operation for terrorist purposes.

But lawyers for McGuigan argued there is a realistic possibility he did not know the gun and ammunition had been brought into his car.

However, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan , sitting with Lord Justices Coghlin and Gillen, held there was "a considerable case demonstrating that the appellant was acting in concert with the others".

He cited McGuigan's failure to give evidence or to explain how he ended up with the other three on the night of their arrest.

Despite dismissing the appeal against conviction, Sir Declan allowed the challenge to the 12-year sentence.

McGuigan was entitled to a two-year reduction due to delays in the trial and how he conducted his defence during the hearing, he held.

McCallion's jail term was also then reduced by two years.

Both men will serve half their periods in custody and half on licence.

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