A west Belfast man was given an 11-year jail term on Friday after he was “caught red-handed’’ with a ready to deploy bomb concealed inside a holdall.
Connor Hughes, 23, of Altan Close, Dunmurry, had pleaded guilty at Belfast Crown Court to a single charge of possessing a blast bomb type device with intent to endanger life after he was arrested during an intelligence-led police operation last year.
Passing sentence, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said yesterday: “It is proper when sentencing to have an element of deterrence in that sentence to send out a clear message that terrorist-related activity which continues to disrupt the stability of society will not be tolerated.”
Following sentencing, the PSNI welcomed the prison term handed down and said the actions of police in intercepting Hughes “had undoubtedly saved lives’’.
During a hearing before the court earlier this week, a Crown prosecutor said that Hughes was stopped by police at the junction of the Glen Road and Shaw Road on March 27, 2014.
Hughes was carrying a holdall, and when it was searched the bag was found to contain “a number of wires and what was thought to be a firing pack”.
Officers immediately suspected this to be an improvised explosive device (IED) and Hughes was arrested under the Terrorism Act.
The prosecutor also said it was the Crown’s case that the device was believed to be “a roadside bomb which would have been deployed against soft-skin vehicles or security forces in the open”.
Hughes, the court heard, was in possession of a fully constructed IED which was ready to be deployed and a “potentially deadly device.”
Defence barrister Arthur Harvey QC said his client - who came before the court with a clear criminal record - had spent time in Australia but came back as he was homesick. The barrister added: “He returned, and during this short period he became connected with these particular offences.”
Judge Kerr QC told the court: “This was clearly a terrorist-related device which by means of a command wire was designed to allow the operator to choose the target and also allowed time to attach the command wire and cause the optimum damage and injury.
“I consider the appropriate sentence to be one of 11 years.’’
However, Judge Kerr QC said he did not find Hughes would pose any danger to society following his release after serving half of his sentence in custody.
The remaining five-and-a-half years of the sentence will be spent on supervised licence.