Man jailed for PSNI station bombing role
A 44-year-old man who admitted playing an "active role" in a dissident bomb attack at a PSNI station in Londonderry has been jailed for 13 years.
Monday, 17 December 2012
Philip O'Donnell, from Baldrick Court in the city, lured a taxi driver to the Brandywell area where he was hijacked by two gunmen and ordered to take a 200lb bomb to the police station in August 2010.
The court previously heard that the 44-year-old had been acting on behalf of Óglaigh na hÉireann.
O'Donnell was further said to have telephoned a 45-minute warning, but only half of that warning had expired when the bomb went off.
On Monday, Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice Burgess said that if O'Donnell had been a primary party in the attack on Strand Road PSNI station, he would have faced more than 20 years in jail.
"Given the nature of these offences and the terror and threat to life in this attack, the dissident group showed itself only too willing to resort to violence in pursuit of its aims and, in doing so, resorted to this highly dangerous act of causing an explosion of this magnitude," the judge said.
O'Donnell, a married father-of-four, had pleaded guilty to a total of six offences - causing an explosion on August 3 2010, hijacking the taxi the bomb was transported in, falsely imprisoning the taxi driver, membership of Óglaigh na hÉireann and two further counts of attempted hijacking.
This was a calculated criminal venture in which a totally innocent man going about his business was threatened with being shot and made to carry a highly dangerous weapon which, if it had detonated, would undoubtedly have killed him.
Mr Justice Burgess
While no one was hurt in the bomb attack, it caused massive widespread damage to buildings and cars in the area.
Prosecuting QC Terence Mooney told the court that, such was the intensity of the explosion, an Ammunition Technical Officer could find no trace of the bomb itself.
But it had been estimated that it had contained 50-100 kilos of high explosive.
Mr Mooney had also outlined to the court how the driver of the hijacked taxi was ordered to drive, first to Glenfida Park where the bomb was put in the boot of his car, and then to the police station.
As the car sat parked waiting on the device being delivered, Mr Mooney said that one of the gunmen sent a text message after his accomplice told him to "tell them to hurry up".
The taxi driver was warned that he would be followed to Strand Road PSNI station and that he would be shot if he did not follow commands.
But the driver warned his depot what was happening and an evacuation operation was already underway when the car arrived.
The following day, police raided O'Donnell's home and recovered two mobile phones which had been used in the dissident republican attack.
On one of the phones, the court heard, was the text message the gunman had sent from the back of the hijacked taxi.
Mr Mooney said it was the Crown view that O'Donnell had "played an active and significant role in the plan" to attack the police station, given the fact that he had made the calls to lure the taxi drivers and to issue the bomb warning.
"Although it is accepted that the evidence indicates that he aided and abetted the principals to the offence, nevertheless his role as disclosed by the evidence was important and indicates that he knew the principal elements of the attack," the lawyer said, adding that Óglaigh na hÉireann are still involved "in a continuing campaign".
Defence QC Eilis McDermott told the court that O'Donnell's political views were influenced when he was a young man and his father was interned, but that since the offence, he regretted his involvement and the damage and impact it had had on his own family.
Jailing O'Donnell, Mr Justice Burgess said that while there was no victim impact report on the driver who had to transport the bomb, he was in no doubt "this would have been a traumatic experience".
The judge ordered that O'Donnell spend half his 13-year sentence in jail and half on licence.