Northern Ireland news

West Belfast man convicted of ammunition charges is remanded

A Crown Court judge presided over a non-jury case involving ammunition and explosives found in the attic of a house in west Belfast

A WEST Belfast man convicted in a non-jury trial of offences linked to the discovery of ammunition and explosives in an attic has been remanded into custody.

Kevin Anthony McLaughlin (38) was informed by Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that he will be sentenced for four offences next week.

Following a short Diplock trial held at Belfast Crown Court last month, the Crown made the case that McLaughlin was forensically linked to a large bag containing items in smaller plastic bags located during the search of a property in Twinbrook on November 22, 2015.

Amongst the items in the bag were three mercury tilt switches, around 700 cartridges, detonators and a magazine for an AK47.

The Crown said McLaughlin, from Ballymurphy Drive, had no links to the house, but his palm and finger prints were present on some bags.

Swabs were taken from the handles and knot of a plastic bag, a mixed DNA profile was obtained, and the major contributor to that profile was McLaughlin.

Also found during the search was a Paypoint receipt, which indicated a cash payment made at a shop on Springhill Avenue on March 28, 2015 bearing the name 'E McLaughlin' and with an address at Ballymurphy Drive.

McLaughlin was arrested, and when interviewed in February 2017, he declined to answer questions. He also declined to give evidence during the trial, where he faced five charges including possessing explosives under suspicious circumstances, possessing firearms and ammunition in suspicious circumstances and possessing ammunition designed to penetrate armour plating or body armour.

Judge McFarland cited the evidence against McLaughlin as "circumstantial" and said he had "carefully considered" what the forensic evidence proved.

Regarding the fingerprint and palmprint evidences, Judge McFarland said it proved McLaughlin touched the bags, but did not prove when this occurred or what the bags contained. He also noted the presence of DNA could be due to "a secondary method, such as transfer".

However, the judge also said: "The fact that there are four pieces of evidence found together connecting the defendant with the explosive substances, firearms and ammunition could not be explained away by coincidence."

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