Published Wednesday, 24 October 2012
The Alliance headquarters in Belfast. (© UTV)
Barry Boardman and Francis Carleton, both from Belfast, had pleaded guilty to possessing the improvised explosive device on May 26 last year.
It was lobbed into the back yard of the Alliance HQ on University Street in the south of the city, but failed to explode.
Boardman, who is 44 and from Claremont Street, was jailed for four-and-a-half years while 39-year-old Carlton of Cavendish Street was jailed for four years.
Recorder of Belfast Judge David McFarland said he was making a distinction between them because Boardman had carried and "deployed" the "crude" pipebomb whereas taxi driver Carleton had acted as a courier.
A prosecution lawyer said police swooped as Boardman walked out of the alleyway which runs along the back of the offices just before 11pm on the day of the incident.
With a police issue gun pointed at him as he sat on his knees in the street, Boardman told the police there was a bomb and that it was fused but that he had not lit it.
Meanwhile Carleton was arrested as he waited nearby in his silver Skoda Octavia taxi.
Both at the scene and during later interviews, he claimed he was waiting on his fare and knew nothing of the bomb.
Examined by an Ammunitions technical Officer (ATO) the lawyer told the court the pipe bomb was described as crude but viable and had contained three bullets along with a small amount of low grade explosive material.
"The prosecution case is that it was a specifically targeted premises," said the lawyer.
Boardman's defence QC Eilis McDermott said the attack appeared to have been part of a wider campaign of hoax bombs which had been placed all over Belfast at the time in that 48 hour period, causing massive traffic disruption.
"The purpose of planting the hoax bombs appeared to be related to a protest about issues within the prison," said the lawyer adding that it seemed "the relevance of the Alliance Party is that Mr Ford is the Minister for Justice".
Handing down the jail terms and ordering that each man spend half in custody and half on licence, Judge McFarland said while he was satisfied there was never any intention to light the viable device, it was part of an "ongoing terrorist campaign" to cause disruption to "members of the public and security personnel required to deal with it.