Northern Ireland news

Judgment reserved in trial of west Belfast man on explosive and ammunition charges

Judgment was reserved by a Crown Court judge 

JUDGMENT has been reserved by a Crown Court judge who presided over a non-jury case involving ammunition and explosives found in the attic of a house in west Belfast.

Following a short trial at Belfast Crown Court - during which defendant Kevin Anthony McLaughlin declined to give evidence - Judge David McFarland said he wanted time to consider what he had heard and would give his ruling in due course.

The non-jury Diplock trial heard that a property at Broom Close in Twinbrook was searched on November 22, 2015, and a large bag containing a number of other items placed in smaller bags was located in the attic.

Amongst the items in the bag were three mercury tilt switches, around 700 cartridges, detonators and an assault rifle magazine.

McLaughlin's palm print was located on two bags, and the 36-year old from Ballymurphy Drive was arrested in February 2017.

It is the Crown's case that there are strands of evidence which pointed to McLaughlin being in possession of the items.

He was charged with - and denies - five offences arising from the discovery including possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances, possessing firearms and ammunition in suspicious circumstances and possessing ammunition designed to penetrate armour plating or body armour.

McLaughlin was interviewed a total of five times over a two-day period.

During this time, he declined to answer questions, and made no reply when the forensic evidence was put to him. He also declined to give evidence during the trial.

In his closing submissions, a Crown barrister told the judge that had this been a trial by jury, then the jury would be "entitled to draw an adverse influence from his silence", and added: "We say he is guilty of the offences".

However, McLaughlin's barrister said her client's silence "does not come near to establishing a case against him to the extend that is required".

She also said that after hearing the Crown's case, "no tribunal of fact could ever be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, given the nature of the evidence."

Judge McFarland adjourned the case and said he would give his ruling in due course. McLaughlin was released on continuing bail.

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