Real IRA plot accused entrapped by MI5 rules judge

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A man accused of smuggling guns for the Real IRA has walked free from court after a judge ruled he had been wrongfully entrapped in an MI5 'sting'.

The case against Desmond Kearns, 44, from Tannaghmore Green, Lurgan, collapsed on Friday.

He had been charged with attempting to smuggle arms and explosives from Europe in an alleged Real IRA arms operation.

But the case was stopped when a judge ruled that an MI5 agent, known only as Amir had "entrapped" him.

In Belfast's crown court on Friday, the prosecution decided not to contest the judge's ruling.

Mr Kearns had denied two charges of plotting to possess guns and explosives between May 2005 and June 2006.

In his ruling on Thursday, Mr Justice Hart said that having reviewed the evidence, "the edifice of the prosecution case" rested on "inadequate foundations and therefore that edifice cannot stand".

'Misconduct'

Mr Justice Hart said that given the evidence of two meetings between Amir and Mr Kearns in particular, Mr Kearns had been "entrapped".

"The defence have satisfied me that Kearns' conduct was brought about by the misconduct of Amir during those meetings, that the offences were artificially created by that misconduct, and that the administration of justice would be brought into disrepute were the prosecution permitted to continue," said Mr Justice Hart.

However, the judge refused a similar application from defence lawyers on behalf of one of Mr Kearns' co-accused, Paul Anthony John McCaugherty, 43, from Beech Court, Lurgan.

He faces a total of six charges including conspiring to get arms and explosives, IRA membership and three charges of using money for the purposes of terrorism.

Mr Justice Hart said it did not follow that because he had ruled Mr Kearns' case be stayed, Mr McCaugherty's case should also be stopped.

The judge said so far, there was nothing to suggest that another agent - 'Ali' - did anything more than "skillfully and convincingly play the role of an arms dealer", and as such there were no grounds to stop Mr McCaugherty's trial.

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