Judgement reserved in trial of couple on terror charges

Orla O'Hanlon is charged along with Keith McCannon
Orla O'Hanlon is charged along with Keith McCannon

Judgment was on Thursday reserved in a Belfast Crown Court trial involving a Co Armagh couple accused of terrorist offences.

Keith McConnan, 21, and 20-year old Orla O’Hanlon were charged with a string of offences, including the preparation of terrorist acts - namely making a bomb - after their Forkhill home was searched by police officers acting under the Justice and Security Act in December 2013.

During the search several items including an industrial grinder and a complete Timer Power Unit were seized, along with crushed ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

Both McConnan, from Tievecom Road in Forkhill and O’Hanlon, whose address was given as Church Road in the village, denied the host of offences levelled against them.

Presided over by Her Honour Judge Sandra Crawford, the non-jury Diplock trial heard it was the Crown’s case the grinder had been used to grind down the ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

The Crown also made the case that the combination of the items and explosives found in the premises indicated that the occupants of the house - McCannon and O’Hanlon - were “committing acts ... for the preparation of manufacturing explosives and making a bomb.”

Closing the prosecution case, Judge Crawford was informed that two charges that the couple initially faced - namely making explosives with intent to endanger life, and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life - were no longer being proceeded with.

During the trial, McConnan gave evidence and claimed that he did use a grinder but claimed he sabotaged any plans to make explosives.

He also made the case that he was acting under duress from a man he would only name as Mr X.

O’Hanlon admitted knowing about the presence of the grinder in her home and owning it - but her barrister argued that there was no evidence to suggest she was present when the ammonium nitrate was ground up.

The barrister said that in the case of his client, the Crown had “failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt” that O’Hanlon was in possession of any of the “offending articles”.