Northern Ireland

Newtownabbey man jailed over bombs and hoaxes

Laganside courts
Image caption Colgan appeared at Belfast Crown Court

A man who was involved in a campaign of disruption in Newtownabbey that included bomb hoaxes and a device being left outside a church has been jailed.

Robert Colgan, 26, from Mournebeg Drive in the Rathcoole estate, admitted a total of 12 offences.

They included possession of explosives under suspicious circumstances and communicating false information causing bomb hoaxes.

He was sentenced to 26 months, half of which will be served in custody.

The remainder will be served on licence.

Belfast Crown Court was told the offences took place between 31 January and 4 March, 2013, and a prosecutor said they were against a backdrop of the union flag protests.

The court heard that while Colgan was not a member of any paramilitary organisation, he made a total of six hoax bomb calls, a majority of which he said were on behalf of the "Real UDA".

A judge told Colgan "your actions will have served to ratchet up an already tense situation in our community."

The judge also spoke of the terror felt by the family of a DUP councillor at whose home a hoax device was left. He said such an attack "strikes at the heart of our very democracy".

'Done for a laugh'

Colgan pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances - namely a blast bomb, and to six charges of communicating false information causing a bomb hoax. He also admitted a further four counts of placing an article causing a bomb hoax.

Colgan was linked by forensic evidence to a crude bomb left at a Catholic church, and linked to a bomb at an Iceland store via a text message he sent that said: "We done (sic) Iceland for a laugh."

Colgan was arrested on 4 March and when his home was searched mobile phones were handed over that linked him to some of the hoax bomb calls.

A prosecutor said other information on the phones - such as texts and pictures of the emergency services attending at some scenes - indicated Colgan "got a kick out of the volume of disruption he caused".

A defence barrister said two years has passed since the incidents, and in that time Colgan has shown "a degree of insight and remorse" and has not committed any further offending - proving he was a "young man who is capable of staying out of trouble."

Passing sentence, a judge said he felt Colgan's offending escalated from hoaxes to viable devices.

The judge also said that after reading a pre-sentence report, Colgan's intent was to "cause chaos and widespread disruption" which he "clearly" did.

Branding Colgan as "foolish", the judge spoke not only of the risk to police officers, but also of the disruption to local businesses and those living in the affected areas.

Addressing Colgan, he said: "There can be no doubt whatsoever that the seriousness of these offences warrants a custodial sentence."