Remanded in custody on jail ‘disciplinary note’ charge

Bishop Street Court House.
Bishop Street Court House.

A PSNI detective told a court in Derry today that a twenty-seven years old local man caught trying to smuggle a “disciplinary note” into dissident republican prisoners in Maghaberry Prison earlier this month had an “operational role within the IRA” and, as such, is “actively involved in dissident republican terrorism activity”.

The officer made the comment while objecting to bail in the case of father of two William Martin McDonnell, unemployed, from Rinmore Drive in the Creggan area of the city.

There was an increased police presence at the Magistrate’s Court for the remand hearing of the defendant who was arrested at Antrim Police Station on Monday when he voluntarily attended the station with his solicitor, Paddy MacDermott.

Police officers were inside and outside Courtroom 2 and several dozen members of the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group took up positions outside the Bishop Street court building.

The defendant is charged that, at Maghaberry Prison on June 5, he possessed an article for use in terrorism, namely a handwritten note which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that it was for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism contrary to the Terrorism Act 2000.

He’s further charged that, between June 5 and June 23, he failed to notify the police of information required under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008 by not living at a nominated address for longer than seven days over a twelve month period.

The defendant, who refused to take part in the court proceedings, denies both charges.

The police witness told District Judge Peter King that the charge of possessing the note related to a visit by the defendant to Maghaberry Prison on June 5 to see remand prisoner Seamus McLaughlin who is currently in custody awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to charges relating to a foiled mortar bomb attack on a police station in the city last year.

Prison officers who searched the defendant found the note, written on cigarette paper and wrapped in cling film.

The detective constable said she believed the note was an attempt by a senior figure in the IRA to stamp authority on dissident republican remand prisoners in relation to their pleas of guilty to offences.

She said the note also referred to informers in the context of “a number of failed operations and the arrests of people involved in terrorist activity in Londonderry”.

She said the alleged author of the note was already in custody in Maghaberry Prison.

When he was arrested on Monday, the police witness said the defendant handed the police a pre-prepared statement which stated he’d been given the note by a person unknown to him who asked him to deliver the note to a prisoner whom he did not wish to name.

The court was also told that the defendant was jailed for seven months last September for possessing articles for use in terrorism.

As part of his prison release licence conditions, he was placed on the Counter Terrorism Notification Register for ten years under the terms of which he must inform the police if he’s going to be absent from his home for longer than seven days in any twelve month period. The officer said that, when the police called at his home on June 19, 20, 21 and 22, the defendant was not present nor had there been any sightings of him between June 6 and last Monday. She opposed bail on the grounds that the defendant would re-offend and would not turn up for future court hearings.

Applying for bail, Mr. MacDermott said that, while the defendant brought the letter to Maghaberry Prison, he knew neither its author nor its contents. He said the defendant was at his home but not at the times when the police called there.

Mr. MacDermott said the defendant spent nine months on bail last year prior to his term of imprisonment and, at all times, adhered to his bail conditions.

Describing the contents of the note as “crude and, at times, illiterate”, the District Judge refused bail for fear of the defendant re-offending.

The defendant was remanded in custody for a video link hearing on July 23.