Published Monday, 08 October 2012
Brendan McConville, pictured at a previous court appearance. (© Pacemaker)
Brendan McConville, 41 of Aldervale, Tullygally, Craigavon sat impassive in the dock of Belfast Crown Court on Monday as prosecuting QC Terence Mooney told the judge, Mr Justice Horner, he had been instructed to offer no evidence against him.
The former Sinn Féin councillor sported a full beard, grown as part of the ongoing dissident republican dispute with the prison service over strip searching.
McConville was due to go on trial on Monday accused of having explosives with intent to endanger life and under suspicious circumstances on dates between 11 October 2006 and 11 October 2007.
No details to the background of the case were opened in court on Monday - but the indictment alleged that McConville had explosive substances namely firework fuse, filler plugs, firework composition, pieces of shotgun cartridges, plastic conduit assemblies, springs and pegs.
Mr Mooney did open to the court, however, that in preparation for the case last Thursday, the Forensic Science Agency "brought to the attention of the PPS new information which had a bearing on one aspect of the forensic evidence that we intended to present in court."
He told Mr Justice Horner on foot of that new information, he had been asked to look again at the papers and having done so, "I formed the opinion that the test for prosecution was no longer met."
"I'm therefore instructed by the Director of the PPS to offer no evidence on this indictment against this accused," said the lawyer, with defence QC Brendan Kelly inviting the judge to enter verdicts of not guilty on each of the four counts.
Although Mr Justice Horner told McConville he was finding him not guilty of the explosives charges, he was taken back into custody as he is currently serving a minimum life sentence of 25 years for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll.
Gunned down in March 2009 after he answered an emergency call-out in Craigavon, 48-year-old Constable Carroll, from Banbridge, was the first policeman killed by republican terrorists since the peace process reforms which saw the Royal Ulster Constabulary replaced by the PSNI.
Mc Conville was jailed for at least 25 years while John Paul Wootton, aged 21, from Collingdale, Lurgan was sentence to at least 14 years.
Lord Justice Girvan said: "The killing comes at a time when terrorist activity has thankfully substantially decreased and it has been wholly rejected, as demonstrated by the will of the people.
"Any terrorist who continues to activate that terrorism at this point in time must be deterred from continuing in that course and any sentence must reflect that need for deterrence."