Belfast Telegraph

Terror trial: MI5 cameras may have been in Northern Ireland park for four months, trial told

On trial: Colin Duffy
On trial: Colin Duffy

By Michael Donnelly

MI5 video surveillance equipment mounted on the entrance of a Co Armagh park may have been in situ for up to four months, a court has heard.

The non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court also heard a defence claim that the recordings made of Colin Francis Duffy (51), Henry Fitzsimons (50) and Alex McCrory (57), are "of very poor quality" and accordingly it's admissibility is also to be challenged.

While the MI5 team leader claimed the footage was "pretty clear", the defence further claimed that a witness had reported identifications could not be made in the case of two of the three defendants.

The three defendants, whose addresses can't be currently reported, deny preparing and directing terrorism, and membership or professing to be members of the IRA.

Fitzsimons and McCrory also deny attempting to murder police in a convoy in a north Belfast gun attack on December 5, 2013, and possessing the two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition used.

Yesterday defence lawyers quizzed a second Security Service technical operative and his team leader about the length of time the surveillance camera was in position in the laneway to the entrance of Demesne House in Lurgan.

While officers refused to be drawn on even what time of the year it was deployed, save that it occurred "on or before December 6, 2013", defence lawyers claimed a log entry indicated it could have been deployed as far back as August 2013.

Initially the undercover technical officer refused to say, on the "grounds of national security", whether the device had been in place for a number of months, if it required maintenance, or whether it had a self-contained battery pack.

At one stage, the Security Service witness told trial judge Mr Justice O'Hara: "My lord, I cannot give specific times of my deployment, or extraction of the equipment for national security reasons."

When suggested that the device could have been in position from before August 12, 2013, according to one official log, the officer maintained: "What I can confirm is that I installed equipment on or before December 6 and that I took the equipment out on December 14."

It was also put to the officer by the defence that when the footage was viewed, "the court will see it is of very poor quality".

However, his team leader, with the cipher 1436, disputed the defence contention of the recording quality, claiming that the footage was "pretty clear".

He also said he was not aware of, and had never seen, the log showing when the camera was formatted.

He too cited claims it could affect "national security" when asked to confirm if the video device was "in situ on or before August 2013".

However, the team leader did acknowledge that from other witnesses, "maintenance deployment was conducted" on the equipment.

However, when asked if he could "help with the date of deployment ... help with the season", as to when it was put in place, again he replied: "I can't on the grounds of national security."

The trial will resume on Monday.

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