Northern Ireland

Jonathan Ginn jailed over hoax bomb and death threat to MP Naomi Long

Jonathan Ginn pictured outside Belfast Crown Court
Image caption Jonathan Ginn, from Dunraven Court, Belfast, had admitted four charges, including threatening to kill East Belfast MP Naomi Long

A man who threatened to kill an MP and planted a hoax bomb at her Belfast office has been jailed for 18 months.

Jonathan Ginn, from Dunraven Court, Belfast, sparked a security alert when he left the hoax device at the office of Alliance MP Naomi Long in late 2013.

Last month, he pleaded guilty to four charges, including planting the device and threatening to kill Mrs Long and her party colleague Chris Lyttle.

The offences were set against the backdrop of the loyalist flag protests.

'Distinctive walk'

Belfast Crown Court heard that the incidents left both the East Belfast MP and Mr Lyttle, who is an Alliance MLA in the same constituency, fearful and stressed.

In Mrs Long's case, she also had to step up her personal security.

Sending Ginn to prison, the judge made reference to the loyalist protests and said "sections of the community were incensed at the policy of the Alliance Party in relation to the public flag displays".

He said Ginn's offences were "directed against elected public representatives and were designed to threaten and intimidate them from performing the role they had been elected to perform".

Ginn, who has cerebral palsy, was linked to both the death threats and the hoax bomb by his distinctive walk.

'Executed'

Described by his barrister as "a person who plainly was exploited", the defendant was captured on CCTV placing a hoax device at the Alliance Party's office in the early hours of October 2, 2013.

Six days later, the device was discovered and the office was cleared. Following an examination by bomb disposal officers, it was declared a hoax.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Bomb disposal officers were called to the Alliance Party's office of Upper Newtownards Road, east Belfast, after Jonathan Ginn planted a hoax bomb outside the building

Several days later, Ginn made a call from the phone box in Portadown, County Armagh, to the same office, telling a member of staff "just to let you know that Naomi Long and Chris Lyttle are going to get executed".

When CCTV was viewed, the caller was identified as Ginn due to his distinctive walk.

The judge read statements to the court from both Mrs Long and Mr Lyttle.

'Worried'

Giving a history of the campaign against the Alliance Party, Mr Lyttle voiced significant fears for both his own and his family's safety, saying the hoax bomb caused him to be "unhappy, fearful and stressed".

Mrs Long's statement said it had caused her "to become even more worried" for both herself and her colleagues.

"I had to have permanent security at my home and workplace and was advised not to travel alone or by taxi," the MP's statement said.

The judge said: "The court must not punish this defendant (Ginn) for the whole campaign conducted against the victims, but equally the court cannot ignore the full picture."

He acknowledged that despite his cerebral palsy, Ginn had a "significant work history" and came before the court with no criminal convictions.

However, the judge said he had committed "serious offences" that required a custodial sentence.

Ginn was told he must serve a further 18 months on licence after he is released from jail.

The PSNI welcomed the sentencing.

Det Srg Mark Bell said Mr Ginn's actions took place at a time when there "were heightened tensions in the area and may indeed have increased them".

"Today's sentence should be a warning to others that there are significant consequences for those who seek to threaten elected representatives just because they disagree with their views."

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