Northern Ireland news

Trial hears video equipment mounted at park may have been in place for four months

Colin Duffy leaving Laganside Court

THE non-jury Diplock style trial of three men secretly filmed by MI5 agents has heard that the video equipment mounted to the entrance of a Co Armagh park may have been in place for up to four months.

Belfast Crown Court also heard a defence claim that the recordings made of 51-year-old Colin Francis Duffy, Henry Fitzsimons (50) and Alex McCrory (57), are "of very poor quality", and accordingly it's admissibility is also to be challenged.

While the MI5 team leader claimed the footage was "pretty clear", the defence further claimed that a witness had reported identifications could not be made in the case of two of the three defendants.

The trio, whose addresses cannot be reported, deny preparing and directing terrorism, and membership or professing to be members of the IRA.

Fitzsimons and McCrory are also deny attempting to murder police in the convoy, and possessing of the two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition used in the north Belfast gun attack on December 5, 2013.

On Thursday, defence lawyers quizzed a second secret service technical operative, and his team leader, about the length of time the suveillance camera was in position in the laneway to the entrance of Demense House in Lurgan.

While officers refused to be drawn on even what time of the year it was deployed, save that it occurred "on or before December 6, 2013", defence lawyers claimed a log entry indicated it could have been deployed as far back as August 2013.

Initially the undercover technical officer refused to say, on the "grounds of national security", if the device were in place for several months nor would he confirm if the device had a self-contained battery pack.

At one stage he told trial judge Mr Justice O'Hara: "My lord I cannot give specific time of my deployment, or extraction of the equipment for national security reasons".

When suggested that the device could have been in position from before August 12, 2013, according to one official log, the officer maintained: "What I can confirm is that I installed equipment on or before the 6th of December and that I took the equipment out on the 14th of December".

It was also put to the officer by the defence that when the footage was viewed, "the court will see it is of very poor quality".

However, his team leader, with the cipher 1436, disputed the defence contention, claiming that the footage was "pretty clear". He also said that he was not aware of, and had never seen the "VLEI" log showing when the camera was formatted.

He too reverted to claims it could affect "national security", when asked to confirm if the video was "in situ on or before August 2013", although he did acknowledge that from other witnesses, "maintenance deployment was conducted" on the equipment.

However, when asked if he could "help with the date of deployment ... help with the season", as to when it was put in place, again he replied: "I can't on the grounds of national security".

The trial will resume on Monday.

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