Belfast Telegraph

Man is jailed over dissident bullets and bomb parts haul

The ammunition and bomb components
The ammunition and bomb components
Kevin McLaughlin

By Ashleigh McDonald

Police have welcomed a jail term for a west Belfast man linked to a haul of ammunition and components for bomb-making.

Kevin Anthony McLaughlin was handed a five-and-a-half-year sentence yesterday.

McLaughlin (38) was informed by Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that he was being sentenced for either storing the items or transporting them to be stored, and that some of the items were "potentially lethal."

McLaughlin, from Ballymurphy Drive, will serve half his sentence in prison with the remaining half on supervised licence upon his release.

Crown barrister Michael Chambers said: "It is clear that these items were being stored on behalf of a terrorist organisation."

Speaking afterwards, PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Griffin said: "This conviction follows searches which were carried out in west Belfast as part of an investigation into dissident republican terrorist activity.

"During a search of a house at Broom Close in the Twinbrook area, a significant quantity of bomb-making components and ammunition were found in the attic, including three mercury tilt switches.

"A robust investigation followed that linked these articles to Kevin McLaughlin.

"I welcome today's success which demonstrates our commitment to tackling those involved in dissident republican terrorist activity.

"The materials which Mr McLaughlin possessed would likely have caused serious harm to communities in Northern Ireland and could have killed or injured."

The senior police officer stressed combating such incidents would remain a priority.

"We will continue to work with communities to reduce the threat posed by those involved in such activity and would ask people to contact police if they have any suspicions about terrorist activity," he said.

The terrorist offences arose following the search on November 22, 2015.

A large bag was located in the attic and inside were smaller bags containing items such as three mercury tilt switches, 695 assorted cartridges, detonators and a magazine for an AK47.

McLaughlin had no links to the house that was searched, but his palm and finger prints were present on some of the bags containing the items.

Swabs were also taken from the handles and knot of a plastic bag, a mixed DNA profile was obtained, and the major contributor to that profile was McLaughlin.

Also found during the house search was a Paypoint receipt, located at the bottom of the big bag, which indicated a cash payment made at a shop on Springhill Avenue on March 28, 2015 bearing the name 'E McLaughlin' and with an address at Ballymurphy Drive.

McLaughlin was arrested and, when he was interviewed in February 2017, he declined to answer any questions.

He also declined to give evidence during the short trial, where he faced five charges including possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances, possessing firearms and ammunition in suspicious circumstances and possessing ammunition designed to penetrate armour plating or body armour.

Last month McLaughlin was convicted by Judge McFarland on four of the five charges, but was cleared of possessing the items with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property.

Defence barrister Eilis McDermott QC highlighted a delay in bringing the case to court and spoke of her client's long-standing medical issues.

She also revealed that while McLaughlin has never been employed, he has dedicated his time as a volunteer in a mental health facility in his community.

Sending McLaughlin to prison, Judge McFarland said that while he accepted the "quality and quantity" of the explosives were "modest", the components could be used to manufacture a bomb.

The judge noted armour-piercing bullets found were designed to cause maximum damage.

Belfast Telegraph

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