Prisoner on arms charges denied bail

16 June 2007
The Irish News
Allison Morris

A Co Armagh man accused of trying to procure an arsenal of weapons for the Real IRA was refused bail yesterday, despite police admitting that a secret recording at the centre of the case is inaudible.

Desmond Kearns (42), from Tannaghmore Green in Lurgan, has been on remand in Maghaberry prison for almost a year facing charges of conspiring to possess weapons.

His wife Alison Kearns (38) is currently on bail after being charged with inviting another person to provide weapons.

Michael Dermot Gregory (38), of Concession Road in Crossmaglen, south Armagh, is also charged with making assets available in connection with the arrests, which took place after security services set up a 'sting' operation in June of last year.

A previous bail hearing was adjourned so that the court could be provided with transcripts of a recording made by an undercover policeman posing as an arms dealer.

The court had been told the accused initially held a meeting with an officer who claimed to be able to provide him with a haul of cigarettes.

He was then introduced to another undercover member of the security services who said he was able to provide weapons, including automatic rifles, explosives and ammunition.

Both policemen were wired with recording devices and have made statements.

It has been claimed Mr Kearns was trying to procure weapons including AK-47s, heavy machine guns and various types of ammunition for use by the Real IRA.

However, a detective sergeant told Belfast High Court that while the recording made by the man claiming to be the cigarette dealer was audible, the second recording was not.

He said police had only been in possession of "master discs" and not transcribed copies of the recordings as previously thought and when the master disc from the policeman posing as an arms dealer was copied, parts in which the accused was alleged to have mentioned buying weapons could not be made out.

However, the detective said that this only formed part of the case against the defendant and statements from both undercover policemen and a back-up crew who were listening in on the meeting would be produced.

Lord Justice Girvan said that while he was concerned at the delays in getting the case to trial, he was happy that there was a "prima facie" case to answer.

"I'm satisfied that it was not the intention of the police to mislead the court," he said.

"I'm concerned at the passage of time and it is imperative that the Crown gets on as quickly as possible.

"As matters stand there is a prima facie case of some strength against the defendant.

"The organisation concerned at this time may still want to make use of arms and it is that context that I refuse the application for bail."

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