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Man stored sawn-off shotguns to pay off £8,000 drug debt, Belfast court told

A man who allegedly stored sawn-off shotguns and a pistol at his west Belfast home to pay off an £8,000 drug debt must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled today.

Gerard Porter, 49, claimed he was under duress to keep weapons for two men who called at his Cluain Mor Drive property earlier this month.

But refusing bail, Sir Anthony Hart said: "I'm not satisfied the court has heard the whole truth of these matters."

Police found the guns during searches at the family home on May 23.

One sawn-off shotgun was recovered in a garden pigeon loft, while the semi-automatic pistol was located in a bedroom box.

A second shotgun was discovered in an upstairs hot press.

Prosecution counsel said police believe the weapons were for use by organised criminals in Belfast.

She expressed particular concerns about punishment shootings and gun crime in the west of the city.

Porter faces charges of with possessing firearms in suspicious circumstances, handling stolen goods, obstructing police, disorderly behaviour, and having firearms following a sentence of imprisonment.

During police interviews he claimed two unknown men had instructed him on May 15 to keep a bag containing firearms until they were collected the following week.

"He explained that he had never seen the men before and had an £8,000 drug debt to pay off," the Crown lawyer said.

"He assumed if he held these weapons then part of that debt would be cleared, and he told police he felt under duress to comply."

The court heard Porter used surgical gloves when handling two of the weapons to avoid leaving any DNA.

But he denied knowing anything about the shotgun found in the hot press, claiming it must have been put there by someone else coming into the home.

Defence barrister Michael Ward argued his client had been consistent in everything he told police.

But Sir Anthony described it as "curious" that no explanation was provided for the third weapon.

As he denied bail the judge also questioned the alleged pressure Porter had been under.

"He thought he would get some monetary reward in the form of some of his debt to drug dealers being forgiven," Sir Anthony added.

"It doesn't appear to me to be a particularly strong case of duress at the present time."

Belfast Telegraph