Northern Ireland

‘Winkie’ Irvine seeking to have guns case against him thrown out

Prominent loyalist Winston 'Winkine' Irvine
Prominent loyalist Winston Irvine

A high-profile loyalist accused of having guns and ammunition in the boot of his car is mounting a legal bid to get the case against him thrown out before it reaches trial.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard on Friday that Winston ‘Winkie’ Irvine, 48, has requested a preliminary inquiry to challenge the strength of the prosecution evidence.

Up to a dozen police surveillance officers are also set to give evidence at that hearing.

Irvine and co-defendant Robin Workman, 52, face charges connected to a haul of weapons seized in Belfast in June 2022.

Police claim Workman, a self-employed joiner, transported the guns in his van to a meeting in the Glencairn area.

A short time later officers stopped Irvine’s car at Disraeli Street in the city.

Two suspected pistols, an air gun, magazines and more than 200 rounds of ammunition were discovered inside a leather Calvin Klein holdall in the boot of the vehicle.

Irvine, of Ballysillan Road in Belfast, has denied knowing anything about the contents of the bag.

Workman, from Shore Road in Larne, Co Antrim, was arrested following a hospital appointment the same day.

Detectives believe he was the driver of the van involved in the alleged exchange.

Both men are currently on bail charged with possessing a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possessing a prohibited firearm, possession of a handgun without a certificate, and having ammunition without a certificate.

In court on Friday, Workman’s solicitor, John Greer, indicated he will not be contesting there is a prima facie case against him to answer.

However, District Judge Steven Keown was told that Irvine is seeking a hearing aimed at having charges against him dismissed before any trial.

Twelve police witnesses are expected to be called to testify at the preliminary stage.

Prosecution counsel also confirmed there will be applications to obtain anonymity for all of those officers.

Adjourning proceedings until next month, Judge Keown said a date for the preliminary inquiry will be fixed at that stage.

Defence representatives were also given a deadline for raising any objections to the anonymity applications