Dissident republican's trial may collapse without evidence

Colin Duffy
Staff Reporter

ANY further delays in the case of an alleged senior dissident republican held in custody for two years on a charge of trying to murder police officers may not be tolerated, a judge has warned.

Henry Fitzsimons' latest bid to secure High Court bail is to be re-examined next month after a voice analyst is due to testify at a separate hearing to establish if he has a case to answer.

Adjourning the application on Friday, His Honour Judge Gordon Kerr QC advised the prosecution of the potential consequences if the expert's evidence is put back.

He said: "If the preliminary inquiry is not completed on this occasion you're likely to be faced with a position where delay has been extensive and cannot be tolerated."

Fitzsimons (47) is alleged to have conspired with co-accused Colin Duffy and Alex McCrory to kill security force members.

Other charges against him include attempting to murder members of the PSNI, conspiracy to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life, aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm, and belonging to a proscribed organisation - namely the Irish Republican Army.

He was arrested after a police Landrover and two other vehicles came under fire as they travelled along the Crumlin Road in December 2013.

Two AK47 rifles and 14 spent rounds of ammunition were later recovered along with a hijacked and burnt-out taxi the gunmen used for their getaway.

Fitzsimons, of no fixed address, was later detained along with Duffy (46) from Forest Glade in Lurgan, Co Armagh, and McCrory (53), of Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast.

Prosecutors allege the trio were secretly recorded meeting in the grounds of a large country house near Duffy's home a day after the shooting incident.

It has been claimed they were holding leadership discussions about IRA activities, future direction, finances and the amount of weapons and Semtex at the organisation's disposal.

Talks involved the Crumlin Road attack, the loss of the AK47s, burning out the getaway car and whether the gunmen would be recognised, the court heard.

During the meeting it was allegedly stated that in future the only operations cleared would be ones with a high percentage chance of "getting a kill" or at least doing damage.

Fitzsimons' renewed application for bail centred on the length of time being taken to progress the case to trial.

Defence lawyers previously argued that it was in danger of becoming detention without trial.

A preliminary inquiry to test the strength of the case against all three accused is continuing at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

The voice recognition expert, regarded as central to the prosecution, is due to give evidence early next month.

On that basis Judge Kerr decided to adjourn until those proceedings are completed.

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