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Dublin man who bought car used in fatal shooting convicted of IRA membership

Shot dead: David Black
Shot dead: David Black

A Dublin man who bought the car that was later used in the fatal shooting of Northern Ireland prison officer David Black has been found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of IRA membership.

Mr Black, a 52-year-old father of two, was shot dead on November 1st 2012. He was driving to work at Maghaberry prison when the incident occurred.

Vincent Banks (47), of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin 7 had denied membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on December 18th 2012.

During the trial, the non-jury court heard that on November 1st 2012 Mr Black was killed in a "drive-by shooting" by the occupants of a Toyota Camry on the M1 near Lurgan, County Armagh.

The car was later found further along the motorway, burnt out in a ditch. Firearm cartridges connected to the death of Mr Black were found in the car.

Gardai investigating the killing learned that the Camry was registered to a Paul McCann with an address on Rathgar Road in Dublin.

The landlord of the premises told gardai there was no resident of that name living there but that he recalled receiving a letter addressed to Paul McCann. The letter contained the car registration certificate for the Camry.

The Camry had been sold on October 10th. The vendor told gardai that the purchaser had signed the car's log-book with his left hand and held the document with his right hand. 

When the log-book was analyzed, Banks' right thumb-print was found.

The car was transported to Carrigallen, County Leitrim, and was parked there until October 31st, the day before Mr Black was shot dead. 

Banks was arrested on December 18th. When his house was searched, gardai found a copy of the Evening Herald from November 2nd, open on a page reporting on the killing of Mr Black.

The court heard that during interviews, Banks told gardai he knew nothing about Mr Black or the Camry. 

The judges heard that the accused had failed to answer material questions when interviewed under a provision that allows for inferences to be drawn from such a failure.

The court had also heard "belief evidence" from Chief Superintendent Gerry Russell that Banks was an IRA member on the date in question.

The prosecution had alleged that Banks' conduct around the purchase of the Camry was "surreptitious and suspicious". 

The defence had argued that the prosecution was unable to point to "one single activity which could be described as uniquely consistent with IRA membership".

Delivering judgement on Monday Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, presiding, sitting with Judge Gerard Griffin and Judge Gerard Haughton, said the court accepted the evidence of the chief superintendent, and that this was supported and corroborated by other strands in the prosecution case.  

The judge said that it was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Banks was the purchaser of the Camry. 

She said the court was also satisfied that during garda interviews Banks either told "lies" or failed to answer material questions and that the court could draw inferences from this failure.

Ms Justice Kennedy stated it was reasonable to draw inferences from the accused man's conduct in the months leading up to his arrest that he was a member of the IRA on the date in question. 

Banks was remanded in custody until October 9th, when he will be sentenced.