Man appeals conviction for possession of explosives

Man appeals conviction for possession of explosives

The son of a man who was convicted of the 1998 Omagh bombing which killed 29 people has moved to appeal his conviction for explosives offences.

Conan Murphy (28) is the son of Dundalk man Colm Murphy who was convicted of the Real IRA bombing but was later cleared in a retrial following a successful appeal.

Conan Murphy, with an address at Plaster, Mount Pleasant, Dundalk, Co Louth, was jailed for eight-and-half-years in March 2012 having been found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of the possession of explosive substances at Aghaboys, Mount Pleasant on May 22nd, 2010.

His co-accused Philip McKevitt (60) of Aghaboys, Mount Pleasant, was also jailed for eight-and-a-half years having been found guilty of the same offence at his home on the same date. Neither of the men had any previous convictions.

During their trial, which began in December 2011, the court heard that gardaí who raided Philip McKevitt’s home discovered in an outbuilding an “adaptive” advertising trailer constructed for the purposes of concealing two gas containers which in turn had been modified to cause an explosion.

Gardai gave evidence that the device, which carried an advertisement for “”, had reached the final stages of construction before its intended deployment against security forces in the North.

Chief Superintendant Diarmuid O’Sullivan had told the court that the device had a capacity of approximately 500lbs of explosive mix, giving it the potential to cause death and destruction comparable to a device which killed 29 people in the past.

The court heard that a warrant under Section 29 of the Offences Against the State Act had been issued to search McKevitt’s premises.

On February 23 2012, one day before the SCC delivered judgement against the two men, the Supreme Court declared that section 29 (1) of the Offences Against the State Act (as inserted by section 5 of the Criminal Law Act 1976) was repugnant to the Constitution, as it permitted a search of a person’s home on foot of a warrant not issued by an independent person.

Moving an appeal against conviction today counsel for McKevitt, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, said the section 29 warrant had “gone up in smoke” but the Special Criminal Court ignored the Supreme Court's decision of the previous day and proceeded to convict the pair on a procedural statute which had been set at nought.

It was the “most flagrant disregard” of the requirement to provide a person with a trial in due course of law, Mr McGuinness said.

It was difficult to see how the Special Criminal Court could have done anything but acquit McKevitt, counsel said, and the Director of Public Prosecutions were now expressly conceding in writing that the warrant was invalid.

Counsel for Murphy, Giollaíosa Ó Lideadha, said the indictment had alleged “explosive substances made or adapted to cause an explosion” and the court had held that the trailer and gas cylinder were explosive substances within the meaning of the act.

Mr Ó Lideadha said the court incorrectly held that it was a purely technical point, despite submissions to the court that it was a point of evidence.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions, Paul Greene SC, will make replying submissions before Mr Justice George Birmingham, Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice John Edwards tomorrow.