Man sent for trial on terrorism info charge

A 43-year-old man is to stand trial accused of collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists.

Gerard Francis O’Donnell, of Strangford Park, faces a further charge of possessing documents or recording likely to be of use to terrorists.

The offences are alleged to have been committed between March 11, 2008 and June 20, 2011.

They are connected to digital photographs and recordings.

During a brief hearing at Derry Magistrates Court, the 43-year-old declined to say anything in answer to the charges or to call any evidence on his own behalf.

When asked by the clerk of the court, O’Donnell replied “not at this stage”.

Defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott accepted there is a case for his client to answer.

The court heard that the case will be heard in Belfast as a diplock, no jury trial and the arraignment date has yet to be fixed.

Mr MacDermott, applying for a defence certificate for two counsel to defend O’Donnell in the crown court, said the case had been referred to Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory to consider.

He added that the case involved “issues regarding the freedom of the press and the internet” and it was a “quite complicated set of facts”.

Considering the application, District Judge Barney McElholm said it may be a case where the PPS consider briefing senior counsel and it would be “unusual” if they didn’t.

He conceded the case “does raise issues of press freedom and the legality of whatever can be posted on Facebook and other social networking sites”.

The judge said the freedom of the press and “security issues” will “always require a careful balancing act”.

Mr McElholm agreed to grant the application for two counsel and adjourned the case for a date to be fixed.