Judge halts arms plot trial over MI5 entrapment

18 June 2010
Belfast Telegraph

A MAN arrested in an MI5 sting against dissident Republicans could be freed if the prosecution does not contest a judge's ruling that a Secret Service agent over-stepped the mark.

Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice Hart yesterday agreed to a defence application on behalf of Desmond Paul Kearns (44) that his trial be stopped because he'd been 'entrapped' by the agent known only as 'Amir'.

But the judge in the Diplock trial refused a similar application on behalf of one of Kearns' co-accused Paul Anthony John McCaugherty (43). He was said to have tried to negotiate with another agent called 'Ali'.

If the prosecution decides not to contest then Kearns, from Lurgan, will be freed. The case against him on charges of plotting to possess guns and explosives, will be 'stayed' or 'stopped'.

Mr Justice Hart said that having reviewed the evidence "the edifice of the prosecution case now rests on inadequate foundations and therefore that edifice cannot stand".

Mr Justice Hart said that given the evidence of two meetings between Amir and Kearns in particular, that the Lurgan man acted in the way he did because he'd been 'entrapped' during the operation against the Real IRA.

"The defence has satisfied me that Kearns conduct was brought about by the misconduct of Amir during those meetings, that the offences were artificially created by that misconduct, and that the administration of justice would be brought into disrepute where the prosecution permitted to continue," said Mr Justice Hart.

Refusing the application on behalf of McCaugherty, also from Lurgan, Mr Justice Hart said it did not follow that because he'd ruled Kearns' case be stayed, his case should also be stopped.

He said by refusing his application, it did not mean the court was arriving at a verdict in McCaugherty's case as all of the evidence had not been given.

Mr Justice Hart said he was only taking the prosecution case at its height and that it was open to McCaugherty to give or call evidence on his behalf.

The judge said at present there was nothing to suggest in his case that the agent 'Ali' did nothing more than "skillfully and convincingly play the role of an arms dealer", and as such there were no grounds to stop McCaugherty's trial.

He faces a total of six charges including conspiring to get arms and explosives, IRA membership and three charges of using money for terrorism purposes. A third man Dermot Declan Gregory (41), from Crossmaglen, denies two charges of making property available to terrorists.

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