Woman facing charges linked to alleged New IRA role to be freed on bail
A Co Tyrone woman who has spent more than three years behind bars on paramilitary charges is to be released on bail, a High Court judge ruled on Friday.
Sharon Jordan, 48, faces prosecution over her alleged role as a leading role within the New IRA.
Mr Justice Colton granted her application after expressing “grave concern” at the length of time she has been detained in custody awaiting trial.
He said: “That passage of time, in my view, tilts the balance in favour of the applicant.”
Jordan, of Cappagh Road in Dungannon, denies charges of directing terrorism, belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA, two counts of preparation of terrorist acts, and conspiracy to direct terrorism.
The mother-of-three was among ten people arrested as part of ‘Operation Arbacia’, a joint police and MI5 surveillance investigation.
Suspects were arrested following covert audio and video recording of meetings at properties near Sixmilecross and Omagh, Co Tyrone in February and July 2020.
Prosecutors claim those present were addressed by two co-accused who identified themselves as the New IRA’s chairman and chief of staff.
Previous courts heard the gatherings discussed targets, weaponry, finances, recruitment and forging international relations, as well as the possibility of launching a hard economic bombing campaign and cyber-attacks within the UK.
Jordan was allegedly present at both properties and spoke during the course of the meetings.
A Crown lawyer claimed she occupied a “middle leadership” role within the New IRA’s Army Executive.
Opposing bail, the prosecutor described her as being wedded to violence for ideological means.
But defence barrister Joe Brolly, instructed by solicitor Gavin Booth, dismissed the secretly bugged meetings as no more than "talking shops'' involving idle conversation and fantasy.
Amid an ongoing challenge to the strength of the prosecution case, he argued that the meetings were instigated, organised and directed by MI5 agent Denis McFadden.
It was stressed that Jordan has been on remand in Hydebank Prison since her arrest in August 2020 and might have to wait until 2025 for any trial.
Ruling on her application to be released, Mr Justice Colton accepted there was a risk of re-offending.
“The New IRA is clearly intent on dragging us back to a violent past society had hoped had been firmly left behind,” he said.
“Their actions have no support within the community and the public is entitled to expect that the courts take steps to ensure their protection.”
However, the judge held that terms could be imposed to manage any risk posed by a defendant detained for such a period of time.
“The fact that the applicant is now in custody in excess of three years awaiting trial is a matter of grave concern,” he said.
Mr Justice Colton cited the financial sureties on offer from both Jordan’s father, who in evidence disavowed violence for political objectives and denounced the New IRA’s activities, and a respected businessman in the Dungannon area.
“I have considered that this applicant, and I stress I am making no precedent in respect of other co-accused, can be admitted to bail under strict conditions,” he confirmed.
He ordered the lodgement of £15,000 in cash guarantees, imposed a curfew and electronic monitoring, and directed that Jordan must report to police three times a week.
She was also banned from contact with any co-defendants except her 52-year-old husband David Jordan.