Real IRA gun plot pair's appeals dismissed

Paul McCaugherty Paul McCaugherty's appeal against his conviction was dismissed

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Two men jailed over a dissident republican gun running plot have failed to have their convictions overturned.

Senior judges dismissed appeals by Paul McCaugherty, 44, and Dermot Declan Gregory, 42, who were found guilty following an MI5 probe.

McCaugherty, formerly of Beech Road, Lurgan, Co Armagh was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to import weapons and explosives.

Gregory, 42, of Concession Road in Crossmaglen, was jailed for four years.

Sting operation

He was found guilty of making a Portuguese property available for the purposes of terroism.

During the trial the prosecution claimed McCaugherty, calling himself 'Tim', handled money and negotiated deals in locations across Europe.

He believed the men he was meeting were able to procure weapons and explosives but were in fact agents.

The court heard how the security services set up a sting operation against the Real IRA in 2004, with meetings between agents and suspects taking place during a two-year period at various European locations, including Bruges, Amsterdam and Turkey.

McCaugherty was jailed for counts including conspiracy to possess firearms, explosives and ammunition with the intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property, belonging to a proscribed organisation, and using money for the purposes of terrorism.

It was alleged that he had proposed part-paying for the arms shipment by the sale of a restaurant in Portugal which was supplied by Gregory.

Preliminary role

McCaugherty's lawyers argued on appeal that his conviction should be quashed because entrapment was used against him.

They claimed his case was inextricably linked to that of a co-accused who walked free after a judge ruled the same method was deployed in the MI5 sting operation.

Desmond Kearns, 44, from Tannaghmore Green, Lurgan, had also been charged with attempting to smuggle arms and explosives from Europe.

But his prosecution was stopped when a judge held that an MI5 agent, known only as Amir, had entrapped him.

McCaugherty's position was held to be different because Amir only played a preliminary role in introducing him to the agent named Ali who he believed was an arms dealer.

Real IRA mural The plot was intended to procure weapons for the Real IRA

The Court of Appeal stressed that it was an abuse of state power to lure citizens into committing acts forbidden by the law and then to prosecute them.

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan accepted the trial judge's analysis that Amir's conduct was preliminary to the engagement of Ali with McCaugherty

Dismissing his appeal, Sir Declan said: "It did not cause the commission of the offences but rather led to circumstances where the opportunity for the appellant to commit the offences arose."

Gregory's appeal was based on claims that the trial judge erred in holding that the prosecution had defeated his case of duress beyond reasonable doubt.

Ample evidence

He also challenged the drawing of an adverse inference from his failure to testify.

It was disclosed to the court that a threat to Gregory's life emerged at the start of the trial, although it appeared to be unconnected to the proceedings.

It was also suggested that he was inhibited by the presence of his co-accused at trial.

Sir Declan held that the trial judge was entitled to take into account Gregory's failure to give evidence as additional support for the prosecution case.

The Lord Chief Justice ruled there was "ample evidence to defeat the duress case".

He added that the trial judge was also entitled to take into account the fingerprint of Gregory on one of the notes passed by McCaugherty to Ali as well as the failure to give evidence.

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