Belfast Telegraph

Anger over 'lenient' jail term for Meath menr who left bomb at PSNI event

By Ashleigh McDonald

Police said that "two dangerous individuals" had been taken off the streets after two men were jailed for planting a bomb at a PSNI event.

Brian Walsh and Darren Poleon, both from Co Meath, were both handed a 10-year sentence yesterday - half of which will be spent on licence.

They left a device around 20 metres from the lobby of the Waterfoot Hotel in Londonderry ahead of a PSNI recruitment event in October 2015.

Yesterday, a judge said that while the remote-controlled device was located and made safe before the event, it nonetheless had the potential to cause "severe physical injury or death ... to members of the PSNI and others attending the hotel".

At Belfast Crown Court yesterday, both Poleon (43), from Lightown in Kells, and 35-year-old Brian Walsh, from Drumree in Dunshaughlin, were given a 10-year sentence for terrorist offences.

They were told by Judge Geoffery Miller QC they will spend five years in jail, with the remainder on licence upon their release.

Afterwards, Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney from PSNI's Serious Crime Branch said the pair's intention "was undoubtedly to murder and seriously injure as well as to deter people from pursuing a career in policing."

She added: "I am pleased that the threat posed by these two dangerous individuals has been removed and they are now in prison.

"This investigation highlights the determination of our officers to keep people safe and we would ask communities to help us by providing police with any information they have about terrorist or criminal activity."

After initial denials, both men admitted possessing an explosive substance with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property on October 6, 2015, and possessing articles for use in terrorism, on the same date.

Judge Miller said the improvised explosive device was a modified fire extinguisher packed with one kilogram of explosives.

The case against Poleon and Walsh was heard earlier this week. Senior Crown prosecutor Terence Mooney QC revealed how they came to the attention of police in Omagh after a car driven by Poleon was seen acting suspiciously in the town on October 6, 2015.

The pair were arrested on suspicion of going equipped for burglary, were released on bail and ordered to return from the Republic to Omagh to honour their bail in December 2015. It was at this point that they were arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Meanwhile, the SatNav found in their Ford Focus was examined and the data retrieved.

Mr Mooney said it was "consistent with the bomb being placed in the car park by the defendants at that time".

The prosecuting QC also revealed that other data on the SatNav revealed a vehicle had been driven to two other venues - one in Belfast and one in Omagh - due to host PSNI information events.

This, the Crown said, indicated the device left in the Derry hotel was "part of a terrorist campaign carried out in Northern Ireland ... a dangerous terrorist campaign"

He said images and texts located on the men's phones showed they "at least supported the aims of a terrorist organisation".

The court heard the information on the phones linked them to "people associated with Irish republicanism", and images included a punishment shooting accompanied by the words 'bringing back old school' and 'dealers beware.'

Passing sentence, Judge Miller told Poleon and Walsh that he was reducing their sentence from 13 years to 10 for several factors. These included their guilty pleas and the fact they crossed the border in December 2015 and returned to Omagh to answer their bail.

Handing them a sentence of 10 years each, Judge Miller told the prison staff: "Take them down."

Belfast Telegraph

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