Teenager refused bail on terrorism charges

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A north Belfast teenager accused of involvement in a dissident republican plot to kill police officers has been refused bail amid fears that he is a danger to the public.

Appearing in the dock of Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Saturday in a blue T-shirt and jeans, 18-year-old Conal Corbett refused to stand, acknowledge the judge or confirm that he understood the three charges against him.

Instead, with eight police Land Rovers parked outside Laganside court complex and a dozen officers in full riot gear standing inside the court, he gave the ‘thumbs up’ sign to the packed public gallery.

Corbett, from Flax Street, faces three terrorism offences alleging that on April 27 he possessed a mobile phone and top-up voucher “in circumstances which gave rise to the suspicion that the possession was for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism”.

The teenager is further charged with possessing a top-up voucher on April 30 for a purpose connected with terrorism and finally, with possessing or collecting a document “containing information of a kind likely to be useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism”, namely a hand-written note about a rifle and ammunition, on May 7.

Corbett was arrested by police investigating what was described as a substantial bomb which was uncovered on Friday May 1 at the junction of the Crumlin Road and Brompton Park after a warning phone call was made to a local priest claiming the device had been left “for the police”.

A detective sergeant from the Serious Crime Branch objected to a bail application, claiming the teenager knew of the plot, “understood what was being planned and was an integral part of this operation”.

“The bomb had the potential to murder police officers, kill civilians and cause widespread damage to property,” said the officer, adding that police believed it had been Corbett who had made the phone call to the priest.

The officer declared: “We believe that despite his young age, he is a motivated and active member of a proscribed organisation and will continue to be involved in the dissident republican organisation.

“The reckless and indiscriminate nature of this attack shows that he is a violent man, committed to so-called force for republicanism and therefore, posed a risk to the public and police.”

The sergeant told the court while Corbett had a clear criminal record, he had been arrested six times in 18 months, has been investigated for obstructing and assaulting police and is a close associate of suspected dissident republicans.

His defence solicitor submitted that Corbett could be released and would abide by bail conditions.

But District Judge Harry McKibbin rejected the bail application and remanded Corbett into custody to the Young Offenders Centre to appear again on June 3 via video link.