Taxi driver on terrorism charges

Bishop Street Court House.
Bishop Street Court House.

A taxi driver has been refused bail at Derry Magistrate’s Court as he appeared charged with directing the IRA.

Thomas Ashe Mellon (38) from Rathmore Road in Derry appeared on a charge of belonging to or professing to belong to a proscribed organisation, namely the Irish Republican Army, between dates unknown and June 5th 2014.

He has been further charged with directing the same “terrorist” organisation on the same dates.

The court heard how Mr Mellon was arrested and charged after a visitor to Maghaberry Prison was subjected to a routine search and a 1cm squared cling-filmed package intercepted.

The prison visitor- identified in court only as Mr O- was refused entry but allowed to leave the prison before the package was opened and a letter, which police believe to have been written by Mellon, was read.

‘Mr O’, like the prisoner from what was described as the “new IRA wing” he was visiting, were said in court to have criminal convictions for terrorist related offences, and he is now being sought by police.

A representative from the Public Prosecution Service told the court that letter was written on a number of cigarette papers joined together. In the letter, the author says they are “let down” and was “gutted and embarrassed” that a named person has pleaded guilty to something. The author also writes about “f**ck ups all over the place”, and how “too much talk/ s**te has been said in visits”.

At one point it is stated: “I will not allow any dual army operating along with the IRA and us not knowing anything, but hopefully all sorted.”

A PSNI detective constable, who connected Mellon to the charges in court, confirmed that a man with the same Christian name as that mentioned in the letter had recently pleaded guilty to terrorism related charges.

Police said that DNA analysis and a forensic scientist helped support their claim that Mr Mellon was the author of the letter and said he was spotted speaking to Mr O at a premises on the Glenshane.

The detective constable said Mellon was interviewed on these matters from Friday through to Sunday and made no reply throughout. Opposing bail. She added that police believed Mr Mellon had a “prominent position” with the IRA in Derry.

Mellon’s solicitor Paddy MacDermott told the court the defendant did not accept he was the author of the note and added that the evidence against his client was “very, very weak and doesn’t justify this man being kept in custody”.

He also claimed there was no incentive for him not to turn up if granted bail, and said there was nothing no the defendants record to suggest he was involved in such activity.

“Mr Mellon was aware from Tuesday morning police were looking for him and he didn’t attempt to flee,” Mr MacDermott said.

In refusing bail, Mr McElholm: “There have been a number of serious terrorist incidents over the last few years and one has to consider the public interest as well as the possibility of further offences.”

He added that he was not attaching much weight to the fact the defendant did not have much of a record, saying: “One frequently finds these days there are people coming before the court with terrorist related offences that have no record.”