A 33-year-old disabled man who placed a hoax device at the east Belfast office of the Alliance party, and who also threatened to kill two party members including local MP Naomi Long, has been given a three-year sentence.
Sending Jonathan Ginn to prison, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said that both offences – which were set against the backdrop of the loyalist flag protests – were “directed against elected public representatives and were designed to threaten and intimidate them from performing the role they had been elected to perform”.
Belfast Crown Court heard that the incidents left both Naomi Long and her party colleague and East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle fearful and stressed. In Mrs Long’s case, she also had to step up her personal security.
Ginn, who suffers from cerebral palsy and is from Dunraven Court in Belfast, was linked to both the hoax bomb alert and making the threatening calls by CCTV evidence of his distinctive walk.
He was told he will spend half of the sentence in prison, with the remaining 18 months spent on supervised licence upon his rele ase.
The two incidents happened in October 2013. Ginn – described by his barrister as “a person who plainly was exploited” – was captured on CCTV placing a hoax device at the Alliance Party’s office in the early hours of October 2, 2013. Six days later, the device was discovered and the office was cleared. Following an examinination, the device was subsequently declared a hoax.
Several days later, he made a call from a phone box in Portadown to the same office, telling a member of staff “just to let you know that Naomi Long and Chris Lyttle are going to get executed”. When CCTV was viewed, the caller was identified as Ginn due to his distinctive walk.
Judge Kerr read statements to the court from both Mrs Long and Mr Lyttle, with the MLA saying the bomb hoax left him “unhappy, fearful and stressed”.
Judge Kerr also revealed that Mrs Long said the campaign resulted in her ability to represent those who elected her being disrupted. The hoax bomb incident, she said, caused her “to become even more worried” for both herself and her colleagues.
She added: “I had to have permanent security at my home and workplace and was advised not to travel alone or by taxi.”