Northern Ireland news

Dublin man acquitted of IRA membership after a court found it could not rely on DNA evidence from Newry car bomb

The judgment was delivered at the Special Criminal Court yesterday

A DUBLIN man has been acquitted of IRA membership after a court found it could not rely on DNA evidence recovered from a number plate used in a car bomb attack in Newry.

It was the prosecution's case that DNA evidence linked Darren Weldon to a number plate found in the debris of a car bomb explosion outside Newry courthouse in February 2010.

The 47-year-old, from Kilbarrack in Dublin, but with an address at Trim, had pleaded not guilty to IRA membership on October 14 2014.

Delivering judgment at the Special Criminal Court yesterday, Mr Justice Paul Coffey, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Michael Walsh, said the prosecution's case against the accused man was primarily advanced by the belief evidence of a senior member of An Garda Síochána.

The non-jury court said it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the detective genuinely held this belief and the weight to be attached to this was augmented by his experience in serious crime.

It was the prosecution's case that the belief evidence was supported by three separate strands of independent evidence, including a DNA match between a profile taken from a saliva sample belonging to Mr Weldon and a profile taken from a vehicle registration plate in the aftermath of the Newry courthouse explosion.

PSNI crime scene investigator Christine Lumsden gave evidence that the number plate produced to her at trial did not appear to be the same number plate recovered from the scene.

The non-jury court could not be satisfied that the integrity of the number plate was properly preserved when it had been swabbed, said Mr Justice Coffey.

Mr Weldon was previously convicted in 2017 of the same offence and sentenced to five years imprisonment, but his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal last year.

The current retrial was ordered, but Mr Weldon was acquitted and walked free.

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