Dissident republican suspects: Bail refused in Belfast case

Police sealed off a number of streets in the area following the gun attack The three men were arrested after a gun attack on police in north Belfast last December

Three alleged dissident republicans were recorded talking about security force targets with a chance of "getting a kill", the High Court has heard.

The men also discussed weaponry and explosives and losing two assault rifles in an attack on police in north Belfast, prosecutors claimed.

Details emerged as one of the men, Alex McCrory, 52, was refused bail to attend his grand-daughter's baptism.

The judge said the request did not meet the criteria for compassionate bail.

Mr McCrory faces charges of conspiring with co-accused Colin Duffy and Henry Fitzsimons to murder members of the security forces and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army.

He is further charged with attempting to murder police officers, conspiracy to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life, and aiding and abetting the possession of a firearm.

The alleged offences cover a period between January and December last year.

Gun attack

Mr McCrory, of Sliabh Dubh View, Belfast, was arrested along with Mr Duffy, 46, from Forest Glade, Lurgan, and 45-year-old Mr Fitzsimons, of no fixed address, following the shooting incident on the Crumlin Road.

A police Land Rover and two other PSNI vehicles came under gun attack as they travelled towards Twaddell Avenue on 5 December.

Two AK47 rifles and 14 spent rounds of ammunition were later recovered along with a hijacked and burnt-out taxi.

"Examination of the vehicles fired upon revealed the police officers driving were extremely fortunate not to be seriously injured or murdered," a prosecution lawyer said.

She said the men were arrested on the basis of a secretly-recorded meeting in Lurgan the next day.

"This was clearly a leadership or command discussion regarding the IRA, focusing on the attack against police and the loss of two assault rifles," the barrister said.

Those present were said to have talked about whether the gunmen would have been recognised, before concluding it was unlikely as they had worn balaclavas.

'Not made public'

Criticism was also vented that the rifles had not been cleaned before the attack, the court heard.

"One of the guns jammed during the attack. That was information not made public and only available to people with knowledge of the shooting," the prosecution lawyer said.

All three men present were allegedly active participants in operational talks which also explored: future attacks and the availability of firearms and ammunition, finance and the organisation's future direction and the number of weapons and Semtex at their disposal.

They were also said to have talked about looking for targets and using AK47s because there was a high percentage of "getting a kill".

It was claimed that during the meeting Mr McCrory was recorded saying: "I wouldn't mind doing 15 years... if he's lying half-dead at least."

Following their arrests, all three accused remained silent during police interviews, the court heard.

Opposing bail, the prosecutor claimed the transcripts showed Mr McCrory was highly involved in the terror organisation and prepared to travel to the Republic of Ireland to secure weapons.

A defence lawyer said Mr McCrory only wanted out of prison for a number of hours to attend his grand-daughter's baptism.

He said it would be unfair to deny his application when Mr Fitzsimons was temporarily released previously for a Holy Communion ceremony.

With the accused all allegedly to have been under long-term surveillance, the lawyer claimed similar close monitoring would continue if his client was allowed out of custody.

"The height of the case is in relation to comments made while recorded under RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act)," he said.

"Those recordings will be challenged in terms of their admissibility. These are very live issues."

Refusing the application, the judge ruled that it did not come "anywhere close" to meeting the normal criteria for compassionate bail.

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