A 21-year-old Londonderry dissident republican spokesman yesterday pleaded guilty to having explosives and guns in the city in April last year.
Nathan Hastings, from Stradowne Drive in the Strathfoyle area, pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to possessing the “pipe-bomb improvised device”, two handguns and assorted ammunition, all with intent to endanger life or to enable some other person to do so.
Former Recorder of Derry, Judge Piers Grant, remanded Hastings back into custody for sentencing next month. He also ordered that a pre-sentence report from the probation authorities be drawn up, despite Hastings’ “reluctance”.
The telecommunications employee, who has acted in the past as a spokesman for dissidents at an Easter commemoration and also on behalf of the 32-County Sovereignty Committee, was to have gone on trial yesterday.
However, his defence QC Gavin Duffy asked for him to be rearraigned on the first and third counts on the indictment.
Mr Duffy, who said he would not be seeking a pre-sentence report on behalf of Hastings, given the circumstances of the case, added however that he would be providing the court “with a bundle of material” on his client.
He said that the court would also be provided with “an agreed factual analysis” on the case.
Following his guilty pleas, a prosecution lawyer said that they were being “tendered” on the basis “to the second limb”.
This is normally understood to mean that Hastings did not intend using the arms cache himself, but had it for someone else.
He also asked for the remaining charges of possessing the materials ‘under suspicious circumstances’ to be dealt with in the usual way, of being “left on the books”.
Although no details surrounding the case were given to the Belfast court, a preliminary inquiry earlier this year heard from an undercover policeman who told of Hastings’ arrest during what he described as “an intelligence-led operation”.
The officer said that on the day in question he would have received intelligence briefings throughout the day, and that he was part of a Quick Reaction Force there to assist other officers.
Although two cars were stopped on the Northland Road in Londonderry, the pipe-bomb and weapons were uncovered by the officer in a Citroen car being driven by Hastings.