Fury after judge lets gun-running accused go on a Donegal holiday

14 August 2007
Belfast Telegraph
Ashleigh Wallace and Claire Regan

Upper Bann MP David Simpson said he was concerned to hear that a Belfast judge had agreed to temporarily relax the couple's bail conditions so they can take their two children on the family holiday.

An application to relax the conditions during a week-long holiday to be taken later this month was made in Belfast's High Court yesterday on behalf of Desmond and Alison Kearns.

The couple, from Tannaghmore Green in Lurgan, are currently facing terrorism charges after alleged conversations between them and members of the British security forces posing as cigarette and arms dealers were recorded.

During the application, Crown lawyer Sheena Mehaffy said the PSNI was objecting to the Kearns family leaving the jurisdiction for a holiday in Donegal as there was a fear of re-offending and re-involvement in the same kind of activity. She added the PSNI would have no control monitoring their movements while they were in Donegal.

Mr Justice Gillen spoke of the close working relations between the PSNI and the Garda Siochana and said he would be very surprised if the two police forces could not work together to ensure some monitoring of their movements.

Mr Simpson last night criticised the decision. It is ridiculous for the judiciary to come down on the side of a family who want to go on holiday while they are accused of such serious offences, the unionist MLA said. Irrespective of any co-operation there might be between the two police forces, the concerns of the PSNI should have been taken into account. I would support the PSNI's stance on this 100%. I am appalled to hear that this has been allowed to happen. I would also be concerned about what other avenues this decision could open for other alleged offenders in future who want to leave the country to go on holidays. Where do you draw the line? It's absurd.

Previous hearings in the High Court have been told Mr Kearns (42) and his 38-year old wife travelled to various destinations in Europe in the summer of 2004 to purchase cigarettes which the Crown believes were to be smuggled back into Northern Ireland.

During conversations with the agents posing as dealers, discussions were allegedly recorded concerning the purchase of weapons and explosives - including AK47s and rocket launchers - for the Real IRA.

Mr Kearns is facing charges of conspiracy to possess weapons and explosives while Mrs Kearns has been charged with inviting an un-named person to provide weapons with the intent they would be used for terrorism. Both have spent a period of time in custody but were subsequently released on High Court bail and ordered to obey a series of stringent conditions.

Revealing he would relax the bail conditions to allow the couple to take their children on holiday, Mr Justice Gillen ordered the husband and wife meet and obey all monitoring arrangements entered in to between the PSNI and the Garda Siochana.

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