Belfast Telegraph

Dissident who bought car used in murder of prison officer David Black jailed

A "trusted" IRA member who purchased in a "surreptitious manner" the car used in the murder of prison officer David Black has been jailed for five years.

Mr Black, a 52-year-old father of two, was shot dead in November 2012. He was driving to work at Maghaberry prison when he was killed.

Vincent Banks (49), of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin 7, was convicted in July by the Republic's non-jury Special Criminal Court of membership of an unlawful organisation, namely the IRA, on December 18 2012.

At a previous trial, in 2014, he was cleared of withholding information related to the murder of Mr Black.

The court heard that after the killing, the PSNI established a forensic link between the shooting and a Toyota Camry, which was found burnt out.

Gardai learned that Banks had bought the car off a man in the Tallaght area of Dublin.

He had earlier bought a SIM card used solely to call the vendor of the car and later, when he signed the car's log-book, Banks used his left hand and signed the name Paul McCann, with an address on Rathgar Road in Dublin.

Gardai spoke to the landlord of the premises. He said that no resident with the name Paul McCann lived there.

He showed them a letter addressed to that name. The envelope contained the car registration certificate for the Camry. Banks' right thumb print was found on the document.

The Camry had ended up in Carrigallen, a village in Co Leitrim, near the border with Northern Ireland.

That November, Banks was seen driving a friend's car from Carrigallen to Dublin.

Gardai searched the friend's house and Banks' apartment in Smithfield. In the friend's car gardai found Banks' jacket and an ordnance survey map with the page displaying Co Leitrim torn out and Banks' fingerprints on it.

In Banks' apartment, gardai found a copy of the Evening Herald open at a story about the murder of Mr Black.

The court also heard from Chief Superintendent Gerry Russell that it was believed Banks was a member of the IRA on the date in question

Also part of the evidence were interviews conducted under Section 2 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1998. The section allows a court to draw inferences if an accused person fails or refuses to answer material questions related to suspected IRA membership.

The defence had submitted that one of the reasons for Banks' acquittal on the earlier charge of withholding information was the absence of any evidence he knew the car was to be used in a murder.

Sentencing Banks yesterday, Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding at the three-judge court, said that the accused was a "trusted member of an unlawful organisation, in the position to seek out and obtain in a surreptitious manner the vehicle used in the murder of Mr Black".

A mitigating factor was his lack of relevant previous convictions, the court heard.

Banks was jailed for five years. The sentence was backdated to April 16, 2016 to take account of the time he has already spent in custody.

Mr Black, who was killed on November 1, 2012, was the first prison officer to be murdered in Northern Ireland in almost 20 years.

An organisation calling itself "the IRA", formed during the summer of 2012, later claimed responsibility for Mr Black's murder.

Belfast Telegraph

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