No bail for man accused of smuggling note into jail

Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66
Derry's Courthouse on Bishop Street. 3003JM66

Police believe a man accused of smuggling a note into Maghaberry Prison has an ‘operational role within the IRA’, a court has heard.

A PSNI officer made the claim as 28-year-old William Martin McDonnell applied for bail at the local magistrates court.

McDonnell, whose address was given on court papers as Rinmore Drive, is charged with failing to notify police of counter terrorism information and possessing an article for use in terrorism.

The offences were allegedly committed between June 5 and June 23.

Opposing bail, an investigating officer said police fear McDonnell will commit further offences.

The officer said McDonnell has a previous conviction for a terrorist offence and police believe he has ‘an operational role’ within the IRA and is actively involved in dissident republican activity.

He was convicted of firearm offences in 2013 and was sentenced to 14 months in prison. As a result he was subject to a counter terrorism notification order for ten years and is accused of breaching this.

She said police are concerned he would attempt to carry out further attacks on police.

The officer told the court police believe McDonnell is a member of the IRA or he would ‘not have been entrusted’ to carry this note.

It was claimed this note is a terrorist communication which was to be delivered to a terrorist prisoner currently awaiting sentence for a failed mortar attack.

The officer added that police believe McDonnell is aware of the contents of the note and may fail to appear in court because of the possible sentence he could receive if convicted.

It was confirmed McDonnell attended the police station voluntarily to be interviewed in relation to the note and that the handwriting on the note does not belong to the 28-year-old.

However, the officer said police are awaiting a further DNA report on the note.

Defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott told the court his client has been in custody for over three months.

He said the alleged offence is at the lower end of the scale and ‘there is a danger’ McDonnell may have already served his time if convicted of the charge.

Mr MacDermott said all of McDonnell’s family are in Derry and the proposed bail address is with his partner and their young child.

He added that the 28-year-old had ‘no knowledge’ of what was in the note and there is nothing to forensically link him to it as yet.

The solicitor also told the court there was no possibility of interfering with witnesses.

District Judge Barney McElholm refused bail for fear of further offences.

McDonnell was remanded in custody to appear in court again via videolink later this month.