Dissident attempted murder charge ‘attempt to frustrate paroles’

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A convicted dissident republican accused of trying to blow up a Catholic policeman has been granted High Court bail.

Serving prisoner Gavin Coyle is facing new allegations of trying to kill the off-duty officer in a car bomb attack near Castlederg, Co Tyrone in May 2008.

With the 38-year-old due to complete a jail term imposed for other terror offences next April, his lawyers claimed the fresh charges have been brought in a desperate attempt to frustrate his pre-release paroles.

Granting Coyle’s application to get out under that programme in time for Christmas, a judge acknowledged defence contentions that the evidence against him is weak.

The accused, formerly of Culmore Park in Omagh, was arrested inside Maghaberry Prison earlier this month.

He faces charges of attempted murder, causing an explosion likely to endanger life, and membership of the IRA.

The officer was driving from his home when a bomb exploded under his car at Spamount, near Castlederg.

He suffered serious leg injuries and was dragged away from the wreckage shortly before it burst into flames.

Coyle was arrested and interviewed about the attack twice in 2008.

At that stage it was decided that the evidence against him – namely CCTV images, number plate recognition data, two witness statements, text messages and a trace of explosive residue found in his car – was insufficient to charge him.

But the prosecution claimed that a covert recording of a meeting allegedly involving Coyle, taped in 2010, has now sufficiently strengthened the case against him.

He is currently serving a 10-year sentence for other terror-related offences.

A prosecution lawyer argued: “Given his self-confessed affiliation with certain groupings there’s a well founded concern of reoffending.”

Neil Fox, defending, confirmed the bail application was being mounted so his client could continue with a pre-release parole scheme.

He argued that all of the evidence against Coyle was available in 2008 – apart from a recording two years later said to have little relevance.

Although those tapes were sent to a voice analyst back in 2011, Mr Fox pointed to a four-year delay in obtaining the results.

Mr Fox said: “It all creates the suspicion that this is just a desperate attempt to frustrate the release of this applicant on parole and ultimately his release in April.”

Describing the case against Coyle as “flimsy”, the barrister added that any breach of release conditions would result in him being sent back to jail to serve a full five-year licence period.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Horner banned the defendant from entering Castlederg.

Coyle was also ordered to have no contact with any witnesses or his 44-year-old co-accused, David Jordan, from Cavanalinn in Pomeroy, Co Tyrone.