Belfast Telegraph

West Belfast man Kevin McLaughlin jailed over arms cache

The assortment of ammunition and bomb-making components found during searches of a house in west Belfast
The assortment of ammunition and bomb-making components found during searches of a house in west Belfast
The assortment of ammunition and bomb-making components found during searches of a house in west Belfast
Bomb-making components found during searches of a house in west Belfast

By Ashleigh McDonald

A west Belfast man linked to a haul of ammunition and components for bomb-making has been handed a five-and-a-half year prison sentence.

Kevin Anthony 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 and half on supervised licence, with Crown barrister Michael Chambers commenting: "It is clear these were items that were being stored on behalf of a terrorist organisation."

The terrorist offences arose following the search of a house in the Twinbrook area on November 22, 2015.

A large bag was located in the attic and inside were smaller bags containing 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 and a mixed DNA profile was obtained. A major contributor to that profile was McLaughlin.

Also found during the search was a Paypoint receipt, which indicated a cash payment made at a shop on Springhill Avenue on March 28, 2015, bearing the name 'E McLaughlin' 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 was "modest", the components could be used to make a bomb.

The judge also noted that the armour-piercing bullets were designed to cause maximum damage.

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