Northern Ireland

UDA member David Coleman gets three-year sentence

UDA mural Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Mr Coleman is charged with being a member of the UDA

A man who admitted being a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) has been given a three-year sentence.

David Coleman, 32, had also admitted possessing a document bearing an oath of allegiance to the paramilitary organisation.

Coleman, a father-of-one from The Green in Holywood, had been charged with two terrorist offences following searches of properties connected to him.

He admitted belonging to the UDA between November 2016 and October 2017.

It is the first prosecution for membership of a proscribed organisation by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PTCF).

Coleman will serve 18 months in jail and 18 months on licence.

'Brutal thuggery'

Sending him to prison, the judge said the evidence presented to the court suggested Coleman's responsibility within the UDA was at a "local level" as opposed to a him being a "directing figure".

He also described the UDA as an illegal organisation steeped in "brutal thuggery, extortion and drug dealing... which offers nothing to the community it leeches off".

Despite initially denying the offences, Coleman - originally from the Shankill area of Belfast - subsequently pleaded guilty.

A number of items were seized during searches of properties linked to Coleman on 19 June last year.

Image caption David Coleman, 32, appeared at Belfast Crown Court

In one, a black UFF flag was flying at the front of the house, in another, a mobile phone was seized.

The prosecutor said a deleted text was sent to multiple recipients from the phone, which said (sic): "The more ya look around the more ya realise were defo back on our feet and it feels gd when the world put us down and laughed at us not to many laughing now... our teams gd and were doing things that ppl said couldnt d done well the last two years say it all the future lads togeather and go forward watp qs 2nd batt c coy."

One person responded by writing "QS bro".

The prosecutor said it was the Crown's case that the text was linked to the UDA - especially Coleman's use of the letters "watp", denoting 'we are the people' and "QS" for 'Quis Separabit', a Latin phrase meaning 'Who will separate [us]?'

He also revealed that images were found on the phone, including pictures of Coleman at UDA/C Company murals on the Shankill.

'Aggravating factor'

The court heard further searches were carried out, and on 17 October last year, police recovered a document used to swear an oath of allegiance to the UDA which bore Coleman's fingerprints.

A defence barrister said Coleman's plea should be welcomed by the Crown, as there would have been difficulties in prosecuting the case as a majority of the evidence against his client was "hearsay and circumstantial".

Pointing out Coleman's plea indicated an acceptance of responsibility, Mr MacCreanor spoke of the mundane nature of the texts, which he said were "certainly not organising criminal activity".

Speaking after the sentencing, Det Supt Bobby Singleton, PSNI's investigative lead for the PCTF, said the conviction and sentencing "clearly demonstrates the tangible impact of our work, and that of the wider action plan, to remove paramilitarism from all our communities across Northern Ireland".

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