Northern Ireland

Man who stored gun and bullets given suspended sentence

A man who stored a gun and bullets for dissident republicans has had a five year sentence suspended for three years.

The Belfast Crown Court judge told 34-year-old Eamon Toner he was of the view there were exceptional circumstances.

He believed Toner was genuinely in fear for his life having received a Mass card and a bullet in the post.

An earlier court heard police found a revolver and 85 bullets, including two 'dum dum' rounds that expand on impact.

They were hidden behind loose bricks in what was once a ventilator on 16 September 2011.

In an agreed set of facts read out to the court, prosecution lawyer Philip recounted how in March or April of that year, Toner had been in a fight with a well known republican in a west Belfast bar and had received the Mass card within days.

A short time after receiving the card Toner was ordered to leave the country "or he would be killed" and he brought the threats to the attention of police but a masked man came to his home with a rucksack and hid the weapon, assaulting Toner at the time.

The judge said he accepted there were elements of duress about the case but not enough to mount a legal defence against the charges.

Toner, from Clonovogie Gardens in Belfast, had pleaded to charges of possessing the gun under suspicious circumstances and possessing a prohibited weapon in relation to the bullets.