‘Rocket’ accused granted bail to attend funeral

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A man accused of possessing a rocket in the Creggan area of the city has been granted compassionate bail to attend his cousin’s funeral.

Damien Harkin, of Westland Avenue, is charged with possession of an explosive with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to murder and possession of articles for use in terrorism.

The offences allegedly occurred between November 22 and December 7, last year.

It is alleged the 47-year-old is one of three men found in possession of an explosively formed projectile, allegedly designed to tear through armoured vehicles.

Derry Magistrate’s Court heard Harkin wished to be released on bail for a short time, to attend the funeral of his cousin on Sunday morning.

The court was told the deceased was more like a brother to Harkin and his cousin’s death has had a “devastating effect” on him.

Opposing the compassionate bail application, a prosecutor told the court police feared Harkin would reoffend or abscond.

However, a defence barrister said his client, who has a clear criminal record, was applying to be released for six hours.

He added that Harkin’s solicitor Ciaran Shiels and local community worker Tommy McCourt were willing to act as chaperones and a £5,000 cash surety was available.

The barrister told the court both men have “absolutely impeccable” characters and would collect Harkin from Maghaberry on the morning of the funeral, stay with him throughout and return him to Maghaberry.

He further told the court that if there was any breach of the conditions the chaperones would inform police immediately.

District Judge Barney McElholm said the explosively formed projectile Harkin and the two other men are accused of possessing was a “lethal device designed specifically to slice through armoured vehicles and murder everyone in sight that day”.

He said to be in possession of such a device is a “serious offence” and is “inexcusable”.

The judge told the court the “fundamental right to human life must be protected” and he had “little time for organisations who bleat on about human rights when they deny that fundamental human right to life”.

Mr McElholm said he would grant the compassionate bail application with “some degree of reluctance” because he was “satisfied by the credentials of his chaperones”,

Harkin will be released for six hours on Sunday.

He is banned from using or possessing a mobile phone, banned from speaking to anyone but his chaperones and members of his direct family and must not be more than five metres away from his chaperones at any time.

The 47-year-old is also banned from talking about anything other than the deceased and the funeral.

He will appear in court again via videolink on February 7.