Bid to block bail for man accused of RUC base attack fails

The attack on Coalisland RUC station took place in March 1997
The attack on Coalisland RUC station took place in March 1997

Prosecutors failed today in an appeal against bail being granted to a man accused of an IRA bomb attack on a Co Tyrone police station 18 years ago.

A High Court judge upheld the decision to release 37-year-old Paul Campbell from custody after being told police had information but did not try to arrest him between 1997 and 2011.

Mr Justice Horner said: “It seems absolutely extraordinary that no steps were taken to detain him.”

Campbell, of The Mills in Coalisland, is charged with causing an explosion with intent to endanger life at Coalisland police station in 1997.

The father-of-three was arrested at a railway station in Portadown, Co Armagh last weekend.

On the night of the grenade attack SAS soldiers opened fire on the suspected bombers, the court heard.

One man shot at the scene was later convicted of the attack, serving two years of a ten-year prison sentence before being released as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

But a second suspect escaped in a Toyota car belonging to a local parish priest.

A man calling himself John Murphy was said to have arrived at a hospital in Co Louth following the bombing claiming to have been in a road accident.

But medical staff alerted gardai after they realised he had suffered a gunshot wound, the court heard.

The patient was identified as Campbell and arrested for questioning in the Republic.

He was later released and returned to Coalisland, with information passed on to the police in Northern Ireland.

Prosecution counsel accepted inaction from that point until 2011, when unrelated searches led to the recovery of a DNA sample, represented a “difficulty” in the case.

It was claimed that Campbell then fled across the border to Co Monaghan after realising he was wanted.

Following his detention he made no comment to police questioning throughout 14 interviews.

Defence barrister Dessie Hutton argued that his client’s clear record undermined claims he could re-offend.

Mr Hutton also pointed out that Campbell was stopped twice by police in 2010 in relation to driving matters.

Granting bail, the judge held that the risk of flight could be managed by tight conditions being imposed.

Campbell was ordered to lodge a £10,000 cash surety, surrender any passport and banned from leaving Northern Ireland.

He is also to abide by a curfew, electronic tagging and report to police four times a week.