Men charged with Hawkin Street weapons haul will be sentenced next month

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Two men charged in connection with a weapons haul found in a ‘safe house’ used by a “member of a crime gang” are to be sentenced next month.

Gary Pius McPhillips, 30, of Hawkin Street, pleaded guilty to possessing explosives with intent to endanger life, possession of a firearm with intent and possession of a prohibited weapon.

Among the weapons seized during a search of McPhillips’ Hawkin Street address were two hand grenades, a sub-machine gun, pistols, magazines and cartridges.

A CS gas canister was also found during the search on December 20, 2012.

McPhillips also admitted possessing MDMA and mephedrone with intent to supply.

His co-accused 28-year-old Ryan O’Reilly, of Meadowbank Court, pleaded guilty to possessing an 8mm calibre blank firing pistol in suspicious circumstances.

Derry Crown Court heard that police searched the Hawkin Street address and McPhillips admitted he had some ecstasy in his bedroom.

Police found nine tablets, five mobile phones, two SIM cards, an amount of cash and other items ‘consistent with drug dealing’.

Officers also searched a chest freezer and found a number of clear white plastic bags containing a total of 755 ecstasy tablets.

They also discovered a total of 272 grams of mephedrone separated into plastic bags.

During a search of roof space, police discovered a sub-machine gun, pistols and component parts of firearms, including magazines and silencers.

They also found two Yugoslavian hand grenades and a cannister of CS gas.

The court heard after the hand grenades were found the search was suspended and the area was cordoned off.

It was revealed that all the weapons were forensically examined and were successfully test fired.

The hand grenades were also found to be viable.

A prosecutor told the court that the two hand grenades were similar to those used by Dale Cregan to murder two female police officers in Manchester in 2012.

The court heard that O’Reilly’s DNA was found on a blank firing pistol found in the roof space.

McPhillips was also forensically linked to the weaponry.

During police interview O’Reilly claimed he may have handled the gun some years ago.

McPhillips denied any involvement with the weapons, however admitted possessing drugs.

Prosecution counsel claimed that it was the police view that both defendants are part of a ‘larger criminal gang’.

They believe O’Reilly was responsible for moving the weapons to Hawkins Street.

It is the police view that McPhillips is a ‘trusted member of this criminal gang’ who was responsible for dividing up the drugs and ‘trusted with hoarding serious weaponry for the use of this gang’.

The prosecution made an application for a serious crime prevention order to be imposed on both defendants.

They claimed proposed prohibitions on the men would ‘disrupt the reorganisation of this gang’.

Ciaran Mallon, defence QC for McPhillips, said it was accepted his client admitted possessing the weapons on the second limb - namely that he was warehousing the items for others.

He said McPhillips had no intention to use any of these weapons.

The barrister added that there was no objection to a serious crime prevention order on McPhillips.

Seamus McNeill, defending O’Reilly, said there is ‘absolutely no evidence’ to support the view the 28-year-old moved the weapons.

He said his client is not forensically or evidentially linked to the rest of the haul.

Mr McNeill said his client’s case is that a man was waving the gun around a number of years ago and he took it off him.

He also claims he held on to it for a couple of days and then gave it back to this person.

The barrister objected to the crown application for a serious crime prevention order, stating that it was ‘disproportionate’ given that his client is not linked to the ‘more serious and aggravating factors of this case’.

Judge Phillip Babington adjourned sentencing and both men were remanded in custody until November 5.