Northern Ireland news

Loyalist Mark Harbinson cleared of firearms offences

Mark Harbinson at an earlier hearing. Picture by Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk

Lisburn loyalist Mark Harbinson said today he was "overwhelmed with relief" after he was cleared by a Crown Court judge of firearms offences.

Following a non-jury trial that was held at Belfast Crown Court last month, Judge Gordon Kerr QC reserved judgement on three charges arising from a search at Mr Harbinson's property at Sheepwalk Road in December 2015.

During the police search - which was conducted in Mr Harbinson's absence - a gun, silencer and ammunition were located wrapped in yellow dusters in a red plastic Family Circle biscuit tin in a woodshed in one of the outbuildings at the rural premises.

Over two and a half years after the search, and following a three-day trial, Judge Kerr today gave his ruling on the trial and acquitted Mr Harbinson on the three charges he faced.

The 51-year old, from Stoneyford Road in Lisburn, always denied possessing the pistol, silencer and 28 rounds of ammunition in suspicious circumstances, and possessing both the handgun, and the ammunition, without holding a Firearms Certificate.

In his ruling, Judge Kerr said that after "carefully considering all the facts" he could not exclude the possibility that Mr Harbinson was not in possession of the items found in the outbuilding, adding it would be "improper" of him to have a "degree of certainty about" possession.

Speaking outside court after he was acquitted of all three charges, Mr Harbinson said: "After over two and a half years, I am overwhelmed with emotion that I have finally been found not guilty of all the charges against me.

"I have been in custody, and then on the most restrictive bail conditions, throughout that time. My family llife and health have been subject to the upmost stress.

"I am very grateful to Judge Kerr for that fair trial he had given me, and in particular the judgement establishing my innocence."

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