Northern Ireland

Ammunition accused 'had one-way ticket to Enniskillen'

Belfast high court
Image caption The Belfast High Court judge refused bail to Stephen Jones

Ammunition found in a north Belfast flat included types used in punishment shootings and assault rifles, the High Court has heard.

Just hours after the discovery, the man who lived at the property was arrested on board a bus bound for Enniskillen.

Stephen Jones had a one-way ticket to County Fermanagh, prosecutors said.

The 49-year-old, of Cliftonville Avenue, Belfast, faces charges of possessing a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

He was refused bail due to fears he may flee or reoffend.

Mr Jones was not at home when his flat was searched on 24 September.

No clothes

Police found a .22 rifle magazine, 29 rounds of various types of ammunition and a pair of latex gloves among socks in a bedroom drawer, the court heard.

A wall plaque and other paraphernalia linked to the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) were also found.

Later the same day Mr Jones was detained at the city's Europa Bus Centre on a bus headed for Enniskillen.

A prosecution lawyer said he had only £3.95 on him and no clothes, belongings or credit cards.

Mr Jones was questioned over two days, denying knowledge of the bullets but claiming he was under threat from paramilitaries and had been set up.

He told police he had not gone on the run, but had made a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit a friend.

However, checks revealed this man had moved from Enniskillen to Dublin, the prosecution said.

Opposing bail, the barrister raised issues over the safety and security of the general public.

Lacked resources

"Some of the ammunition found, namely the 7.62, police would be aware that type of ammunition has been used by terrorist gangs for assault rifles," she said.

"The other calibers found are known by police to be used in punishment shootings."

Defence counsel said that it was not a case involving any actual guns, with the firearm possession charge based only on the magazine.

He contended that the republican material found at the flat was for a non-proscribed organisation involved in historic talks rather than any illegal activity.

Disputing claims that Mr Jones may flee if released, the lawyer said his client lacked the resources to "disappear off the face of the earth".

He added: "The idea that this man, who had £3 in his pocket and nowhere to go, would live the life of some sort of international fugitive in order to avoid a sentence that would be marked in terms of months not years if convicted, just doesn't hold water."

But refusing bail, Mr Justice Deeny accepted prosecution submissions on the risks of absconding or reoffending.