Northern Ireland

Taxi driver accused of transporting bullets allowed back to work

A taxi driver accused of using his vehicle to transport ammunition has been allowed to return to work by the High Court.

Martin McAuley was given a driving ban after he was stopped and arrested by police in Belfast last month.

The ban was lifted amid claims that he had planned to hand over bullets found in his car to a Belfast priest.

Mr McAuley, 41, of Glenpark Street in the city, denies a charge of possessing ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

A Crown lawyer said his car was searched and the bullets found in a medicine bottle hidden behind a fire extinguisher.

"It's the police view that he was using his employment to facilitate the transportation of the ammunition," she said.

'Tip-off'

Investigating officers believe two magnets found in the vehicle could be used in the construction of explosives, she added.

Mr McAuley was previously granted bail, but prohibited from driving while facing criminal proceedings.

Seeking a variation on that condition, his barrister set out his 20-year career as a taxi driver and the financial consequences of the ban.

He said Mr McAuley had found the bottle while searching for a money bag and had intended to pass its contents to a priest in Ardoyne.

He claimed police discovered the ammunition within 30 seconds of beginning their search.

"There was obviously a tip-off that the item was in the vehicle," he said.

He added that the magnets were used to put the taxi sign on the roof of Mr McAuley's vehicle.

The prosecution was unable to provide any more information on the ammunition after being asked by the judge.

Mr Justice Treacy, who also heard evidence from the accused, said he was prepared to vary the conditions to allow Mr McAuley to drive.