Northern Ireland news

Man escapes jailed after fingerprints found on a blast bomb

A police issued image of the device, with the explosives found in the container with the red lid

A north Belfast father-of-five has been handed a suspended sentence after his fingerprints was found on a blast bomb device almost decade ago.

John Paul Magee (39), of Ardglen Place in the Ardoyne district, had pleaded guilty to a single charge of possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances between August 2008 and August 2009.

A Crown prosecutor told Belfast Crown Court that the charge arose from the search of a house in the Ligoniel area of north Belfast on August 18, 2009.

During the police search, a number of items were found in a wheelie bin - including three glass jars wrapped with silver duct tape, nails and screws, and black firework powder.

The items were removed and forensically examined and it was later determined that the items were components of a blast bomb-type improvised explosive device (IED).

The forensic testing also revealed Magee's fingerprint was found on one of the jars.

A prosecutor spoke of the significance of the fingerprint, which he said indicated Magee had at least possessed the items but could not determine the purpose of this.

"We can show that he handled it but no more than that", he said.

Magee was interviewed on July 20, 2016 and gave a 'no comment' response to officers.

The prosecutor accepted the case was of "considerable vintage", and said "the delay can be reflected in the sentence."

Defence barrister Richard Green urged the Judge not to send Magee to prison.

Revealing Magee's daughter has a very serious medical condition, the barrister said Magee's role in the house was "critical" and him being behind bars would result in too great a burden for his wife.

Passing sentence today, Judge Paul Ramsey QC said that following the discovery of the bomb parts, a fingerprint was recovered.

He said he had considered a number of reports, including one about his nine-year-old daughter who was born after the commission of the offence, adding: "Your life has changed in the interim''.

He said reports stated the defendant's daughter required 24 hour care which involved both her parents.

"It is quite clear,'' said the judge, "that this accused is actively involved in caring for his daughter which is a very demanding requirement for him and your partner.''

Even though the custody threshold had been passed, Judge Ramsey said that these were exceptional circumstances which would allow him not to send Magee into immediate custody.

The judge imposed a sentence of three years suspended for two years.

However, Judge Ramsey warned Magee that if he committed any further offences in the next two years, the three year sentence could be imposed.

Outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Griffin from PSNI's Terrorism Investigation Unit said: "The materials which Mr Magee possessed would likely have been used to cause serious harm and I welcome today's conviction. This explosive device was left in a wheelie bin at the back of an empty house showing a complete disregard for the safety of local residents. The device could have exploded in the residential area or been found by a young child."

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