Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man linked by fingerprint to explosives find 10 years ago avoids going to prison

Some of the items found by police during a search of a north Belfast house, including jars wrapped in duct tape, and nails and firework powder
Some of the items found by police during a search of a north Belfast house, including jars wrapped in duct tape, and nails and firework powder

By John Cassidy

A senior PSNI officer has welcomed the conviction of a north Belfast father-of-five who has been handed a suspended sentence after his fingerprint was found on a blast bomb device almost decade ago.

John Paul Magee (39), from Ardoyne, had pleaded guilty to the offences in February. Yesterday he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, suspended for two years.

He had admitted a single charge of possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances between August 2008 and August 2009.

A Crown prosecutor told Belfast Crown Court that the charge arose from the search of a house in the Ligoniel area of north Belfast on August 18, 2009.

During the police search, a number of items were found in a wheelie bin, including three glass jars wrapped with silver duct tape, nails and screws, and black firework powder.

The items were removed and forensically examined and it was later determined they were components of a blast bomb-type improvised explosive device (IED). Magee's fingerprint was found on one of the jars. A prosecutor spoke of the significance of this, which he said indicated Magee had at least possessed the items, but he could not determine the purpose of this.

"We can show that he handled it but no more than that", he added.

Magee, of Ardglen Place, was interviewed on July 20, 2016 and gave a "no comment" response to officers.

The prosecutor accepted the case was of "considerable vintage", and said "the delay can be reflected in the sentence".

Defence barrister Richard Green urged the Judge not to send Magee to prison.

Revealing Magee's daughter has a very serious medical condition, the barrister said his client's role in the family home was "critical" and him being behind bars would result in too great a burden for his wife.

Passing sentence, Judge Paul Ramsey QC said that following the discovery of the bomb parts, a fingerprint was recovered.

Judge Ramsey said he had considered a number of reports, including one about Magee's nine-year-old daughter who was born after the commission of the offence, adding: "Your life has changed in the interim."

He said reports stated the defendant's daughter required 24-hour care which involved both her parents.

Even though the custody threshold had been passed, Judge Ramsey said that these were exceptional circumstances which would allow him not to send Magee into immediate custody.

The judge imposed a sentence of three years suspended for two years. However, Judge Ramsey warned Magee that if he committed any further offences in the next two years, the three year sentence could be imposed.

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