Judge rejects request to live in RoI by woman accused of making explosives

Court
Court

A young woman who is accused of making explosives for dissident republicans had a bail application seeking permission to live across the border with her co-accused’s parents refused on Thursday.

Orla O’Hanlon is due to face trial later this year – alongside boyfriend and 21-year old co-accused Keith McCannon – on number of offences including making and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life or property at their south Armagh home.

Orla O'hanlon

Orla O'hanlon

The couple were arrested following police searches of their home on Tievcrom Road in Forkill in December 2013, where a number of items including an industrial three-foot tall grinder were seized.

It is the Crown’s case that when this grinder was tested, white powder confirmed as ammonium nitrate – similar to that used in home-made explosives – was discovered in and around the appliance.

O’Hanlon, who is from Church Road in Forkhill and who turns 20 next week, spent time in custody and was subsequently released on bail subject to stringent conditions.

These conditions included her living at her parents address, being electronically tagged and observing a 9pm to 7am curfew.

An application was made to Judge Sandra Crawford at Belfast Crown Court to vary O’Hanlon’s bail to allow her to live with McCannon’s parents in Dundalk, Co Louth.

The main thrust of the applicaton was that O’Hanlon was not getting on with her mother, she felt she got on better with her boyfriend’s mother and she wanted to live with his family.

Objecting to the bail variation, Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said that if O’Hanlon was allowed to move across the border, several of the bail conditions could not be monitored properly.

Mr Steer said that when O’Hanlon was initially granted bail in February last year, this was on the grounds that she lived with her parents.

During this application, the court heard O’Hanlon was from a strong and supportive family.

Mr Steer also revealed that co-accused McCannon is making the case that he was acting under duress, and has claimed that a close relative was threatened by people who called to his family home.

This prompted the prosecution to raise a further objection to O’Hanlon going to live at an “entirely unsuitable address”.

He also said O’Hanlon’s claim that she doesn’t have a good relationship with her mother was not a sufficient enough reason to vary bail and allow her to live across the border, especially so close to the trial, which is due to commence in November.

Defence barrister Martin O’Rourke, representing O’Hanlon, said that since his client was granted bail, there have been no issues with the conditions.

Mr O’Rourke told Judge Crawford that should bail be granted, O’Hanlon “is willing to sign daily, if necessary in Newry, in order to show the police that she was abiding by her bail conditions”.

O’Hanlon has denied all the offences levelled against her and has made the case that as far as she was concerned, the grinder was a normal household item which she used for baking.

She also makes the case that she knew nothing about the traces of explosive which were subsequently located on the item.

Judge Crawford said that after giving “careful consideration” to the application to vary O’Hanlon’s bail, she was refusing the request.

She gave several reasons, including an opinion that O’Hanlon could her find herself being placed under duress if she moved to the address, as well as the fact that the trial is due to commence in the near future.

Judge Crawford concluded: “I have taken into consideration the serious nature of the charges, and balancing these against the conditions imposed, I am satisfied the conditions are necessary and proportionate.

“In the circumstances, I refuse the application for the variation.”