Handcuffed dissident in show of defiance in court

Gavin Coyle is currently serving a 10-year sentence for weapons offences
Gavin Coyle is currently serving a 10-year sentence for weapons offences

A convicted dissident republican refused to stand in court when he faced a charge of trying to murder an off-duty Catholic police officer with an under-car bomb.

Gavin Coyle, 40, of Mullaghmore Drive, Omagh, Co Tyrone, was led into Belfast Crown Court in handcuffs to be arraigned on a total of three charges dating back almost a decade ago.

When asked by the clerk of the court to ‘please stand’, Coyle refused to get to his feet and sat in the dock between two prison guards.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told the clerk to proceed with the arraignment.

Coyle, dressed in faded blue jeans and short-sleeved shirt, pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of a PSNI constable on May 12, 2008 and causing an explosion “likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property’’ on the same date.

He further denied being a member of a proscribed organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army, on dates between May 9, 2008 and May 13, 2008.

Prosecution counsel Ciaran Murphy QC asked for the case to be listed in a week’s time to allow a date for trial to be set in the autumn.

“There are a number of pre-trial applications in respect of bad character and hearsay and it will be necessary for a disclosure judge to be appointed,’’ he added.

Defence barrister Neil Fox said he had no issues with the prosecution’s application.

Judge McFarland agreed to adjourn proceedings to allow “further discussions to be made on a trial date”.

Coyle was returned to Maghaberry prison where he is currently serving a 10-year sentence after he was jailed in January 2014 after pleading guilty to having a stockpile of weapons and explosives and membership of the IRA.

The weapons, explosives and other terrorist material were found in a lock-up garage at Mountjoy Road, Washing Bay in Coalisland, Co Tyrone, by PSNI detectives investigating the murder of Catholic PSNI constable Ronan Kerr on April 2, 2011.

Constable Kerr had just got into his Ford Focus car to go to work in Omagh when a bomb exploded under this car.

The new charges Coyle is to face trial over relate to a bomb attack in Co Tyrone three years earlier.

An off-duty Catholic police officer was driving to work in Enniskillen when an “under-vehicle improvised explosive device’’, containing 1lb of high explosives, detonated under his car on May 12, 2008, at Spamount, near Castlederg.

The officer suffered serious leg injuries in the attack.

He was rescued by a member of the public who dragged him from the wreckage shortly before it burst into flames.

At a previous hearing in the magistrates’ court, a district judge was told that in 2008 Coyle had been interviewed twice about the attack by police but prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence against him.

However, a detective told the same hearing that evidence from a “covert recording’’ of a meeting allegedly involving Coyle, was recorded in February 2010 during which he allegedly discussed the attack.

As a result of expert voice recognition analysis, the detective said the secret recording had given police sufficient grounds to charge the accused.