Northern Ireland

Paul McConnell sentence suspended

A Londonderry taxi driver who admitted using his car for terrorism has been given a nine month jail term suspended for three years.

Paul McConnell, 44, from Eastway Gardens in Derry, refused to name a man who asked him to collect a parcel.

Police were already watching the house in Rinmore Gardens and saw McConnell leaving with a package on 12 July 2012.

It was never recovered but a defence lawyer claimed the package contained camouflage clothing and balaclavas.

Belfast Crown Court heard McConnell had been paid £20 "for his trouble" by the unnamed man.

The judge told Paul McConnell, 44, that although it was a serious charge, he was looking at the particular circumstances of the case and McConnell's involvement.

While he had refused to answer police questions, McConnell said he thought the parcel, which felt "soft like a teddy bear" was "suspicious" although it was never recovered.

He later pleaded guilty to using his car for a purpose connected to the instigation, preparation or commission of an act of terrorism.

The defence claimed the parcel had contained camouflage clothing and balaclavas.

'No connection'

Defence lawyer Joe Brolly said that McConnell, a married man with children had a clear record.

"He has no interest in politics...and there's no connection between him and any nefarious goings on," Mr Brolly said.

Handing down the suspended jail term, the judge said he appreciated McConnell's reasons for not naming any individuals.

Another man, William Martin McDonnell, 26, who was arrested after police searched the property at Rinmore Gardens, is currently on bail awaiting trial.

Mr McDonnell is accused of having five imitation assault rifles, two blank firing pistols, five blank revolver rounds, three holsters, five camouflage jackets, balaclavas, belts, black gloves, black shoes, binoculars and a two way radio for a purpose connected with terrorism.

He also denies possessing an 8mm blank calibre pistol under suspicious circumstances, also on 12 July last year.