Northern Ireland news

Prosecutors fail to stop release of woman (61) accused of storing coded messages about dissident weaponry in perfume box

Fionnghuale Perry pictured at the launch of an 'Unfinished Revolution' parade to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising in 2016

A 61-year-old woman accused of storing coded messages about dissident republican weaponry in a perfume box is to be released from custody, a judge has ruled.

Prosecutors had appealed a decision to grant bail to Fionnghuale Perry on charges linked to the seizure of bomb-making equipment, guns and ammunition in west Belfast more than three years ago.

They claimed subsequent searches at her home uncovered handwritten notes on cigarette and tracing paper about "Rice Krispies", "dates" and "almonds".

A Crown lawyer alleged these were coded references to munitions, explosives or AK-47 rifles as part of inquiries into what equipment may have been seized in the earlier operation.

Perry, of Waterville Street in the city, is believed to have been the author based on handwriting analysis, it was contended.

She denies two counts of collecting or making a record of information likely to be useful to terrorists - namely a security debrief regarding the police recovery of firearms, ammunition and explosives.

The High Court heard today that the notes were discovered in a perfume box during a raid on Perry's home in February 2018.

A prosecution lawyer said they are believed to relate to an arms find at Ballymurphy in September 2015 when half a kilo of Semtex, detonators, handguns and more than 200 rounds of ammunition were seized.

"Details within the notes were never released to the press, they contained information not in the public domain," she said.

Comparisons were carried out with a handwriting sample obtained from a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment form.

An expert report obtained earlier this month "strongly supports the proposition" that it is Perry's writing on the notes, according to the prosecution.

Fingerprint evidence also forms part of the case against her.

When charged Perry stated that she had not collected any information for any illegal organisation, adding that she is only a member of republican political party Saoradh.

The Public Prosecution Service mounted an appeal after she was initially granted bail at Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday.

It was claimed her release could create a risk of further alleged offending or obstruction to the administration of justice.

Defence barrister Blaine Nugent had stressed his client denies the charges, adding that membership of Saoradh is not an offence.

During the appeal Mr Justice McAlinden asked if police fear she may have compromised an ongoing investigation.

The prosecution confirmed, however, that concerns were centred on her alleged knowledge of an operation which has now ended.

Upholding the decision to grant bail, the judge ordered Perry to report to police three times a week and abide by restrictions on social media postings.

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