Accused gets bail in Real IRA arms case

28 July 2007
The Irish News
Allison Morris

A man from Co Armagh charged with trying to procure weapons for the Real IRA was granted bail yesterday after police were forced to admit that recorded evidence central to the case had been rendered useless.

Desmond Kearns of Tannaghmore Green in Lurgan has been on remand in Maghaberry prison since June last year facing charges of conspiring to possess weapons for the republican group.

Police strongly opposed bail in the past. However, the prosecution told a court yesterday the police now had no issue with the 42-year-old being released pending trial following a "change of circumstances".

Mr Kearns was arrested after security agents staged a sting operation with an undercover policeman posing as an arms dealer.

During a previous court hearing a detective investigating the alleged weapons deal was forced to admit that a recording made by the undercover officers was inaudible.

It is believed that police experts have since spent more than six months trying to transcribe the recording but that there are no audible references to the purchase of weapons.

On Monday transcribed copies of the recording were passed to the Public Prosecution Service but it is believed the copies contain "anomalies" that throw the entire prosecution case into disarray.

Despite the alleged offence having taken place more than a year ago it is believed it may now take another 18 months before the case is ready for trial.

The accused's wife Alison Kearns (38) is also on bail charged with inviting another person to provide weapons.

During a previous hearing the court was told Mr Kearns had initially held a meeting with an undercover officer who claimed to be able to provide him with a haul of cigarettes.

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

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

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

A prosecution QC told Mr Justice Weir yesterday that police no longer had an issue with Mr Kearns being granted bail provided that stringent conditions were applied.

This change of circumstances was said to be down to an "uncertainty" about material supplied.

However, the QC said that despite the absence of the recorded evidence, the prosecution believed it still had a prima facie case against the Lurgan man.

The judge granted bail with two sureties of £10,000.

He also imposed a curfew and instructed the accused to surrender his passport to the police.

Mr Kearns was also ordered to have no contact with his coaccused - Michael Dermot Gregory, Paul McCaugherty and Daniel Victor Polin.

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