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Dissident republican caught with bomb in holdall is jailed for five years

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Connor Hughes was arrested after he was stopped with a holdall containing an improvised explosive device

Connor Hughes was arrested after he was stopped with a holdall containing an improvised explosive device

The improvised explosive device

The improvised explosive device

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Connor Hughes was arrested after he was stopped with a holdall containing an improvised explosive device

A dissident republican has been jailed for at least five years for plotting a bomb attack on the security forces.

Connor Hughes was "caught red-handed" with a ready-to-deploy bomb concealed inside a holdall.

The 23-year-old of Altan Close, Dunmurry, had pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to a single charge of possessing a blast-bomb-type device with intent to endanger life after he was arrested during an intelligence-led police operation last year.

Passing sentence, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said: "It is proper when sentencing to have an element of deterrence in that sentence to send out a clear message that terrorist-related activity which continues to disrupt the stability of society will not be tolerated."

Hughes was sentenced to 11 years, half of which he will spend in prison and the remainder on licence. The PSNI welcomed the prison term and said the actions of police in intercepting Hughes "had undoubtedly saved lives".

During a hearing before the court earlier this week, a Crown prosecutor said that Hughes was stopped by police at the junction of the Glen Road and Shaws Road on March 27, 2014.

He was carrying a holdall and when it was searched, the bag was found to contain "a number of wires and what was thought to be a firing pack".

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Officers immediately suspected this to be an improvised explosive device (IED) and Hughes was arrested under the Terrorism Act.

The prosecutor said that when stopped, Hughes was wearing six top layers of clothing as well as a scarf and gloves. The court heard Hughes "refused to identify himself at the scene" and also "didn't warn officers dealing with him of the potential danger to them of the device he was carrying".

Saying the device in question was a blast-bomb-type IED, the prosecutor said that when detected at the junction, the device was "fully constructed and connected, except for the battery pack being attached at the command wire".

The prosecutor said it was the Crown's case that the device was believed to be "a roadside bomb which would have been deployed against soft-skin vehicles or security forces in the open".

During police interviews, Hughes was silent throughout, except to say he was not a member of a proscribed organisation. He has, however, spent his remand in the dissident wing of Maghaberry. The court heard that the bomb had been picked up in nearby Lenadoon and was being moved "in order to make final preparations for its deployment".

Judge Kerr QC said: "This was clearly a terrorist-related device which by means of a command wire was designed to allow the operator to chose the target and also allowed time to attach the command wire and cause the optimum damage and injury."

The judge said he did not find Hughes would pose a danger to society following his release after serving half of his sentence in custody.

Quotes

"Police action on that night last March undoubtedly saved lives, most probably the lives of our police colleagues who were working to provide a service to the local community. But the community itself was also put in danger of death or serious injury because of the highly unpredictable nature of these improvised explosive devices."

Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes


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