West Belfast man set to face week-long trial on munitions charges

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A Belfast man is to stand trial later this year on a series of explosive and ammunition charges, a court has ruled.

Kevin Anthony McLaughlin, 35 and of Ballymurphy Drive in the west of the city, appeared at Belfast Crown Court on Friday for an arraignment hearing on five charges.

He pleaded not guilty to possession of explosives with intent to endanger life and possession of explosives in suspicous circumstances.

McLaughlin further denied possesing a magazine for an assault rifle and a quantity of assorted ammunition in suspicious circumstances on dates between March and November 2015.

The charges alleged that he possessed three mercury tilt switches, detonators and improvised detonator cord.

He was accused of possessing four rounds of military-grade bullets capable of “penetrating armour plating, armour screening or body armour”.

McLaughlin was further charged with possessing 88 rounds of ammunition “which are designed to be used with a pistol and incorporate a missile designed or adapted to expand on impact”.

His non-jury trial was fixed for December 10, 2018, and is expected to last around a week, Judge Geoffrey Miller QC was told.

The court heard that 21 witnesses will be involved in the trial.

McLaughlin’s defence barrister Jonpaul Shiels said that there were “significant forensice issues in this case’’.

Judge Miller told the court that the case would be reviewed on November 9 when any pre-trial issues should be addressed.

The judge released McLaughlin on contuing bail, telling the defendant: “You are free to go at this stage.”