Published Monday, 07 January 2013
Toner's sentence was suspended for three years at Belfast Crown Court. (© UTV)
Belfast Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC told 34-year-old Eamon Toner he was of the view there were exceptional circumstances in the case, in that Toner was genuinely in fear of his life having received a Mass card and a bullet in the post, signed by the CIRA.
An earlier court heard how police officers uncovered a .38 revolver and 85 bullets, including two 'dum dum' rounds which expand on impact, hidden behind loose bricks in what was once a ventilator on September 16 2011.
In an agreed set of facts read out to the court, prosecution lawyer Philip recounted how in March or April of that year, Toner had been in a fight with a well known republican in a west Belfast bar and had received the Mass card within days.
A short time after receiving the card Toner was ordered to leave the country "or he would be killed".
He brought the threats to the attention of police but a masked man came to his home with a rucksack and hid the weapon, assaulting Toner at the time.
On Monday Judge Kerr said he accepted there were elements of duress about the case but not enough to mount a legal defence against the charges.
Toner, from Clonovogie Gardens in Belfast, had pleaded to charges of possessing the gun under suspicious circumstances and possessing a prohibited weapon in relation to the bullets.