Two Derry men guilty over prison note for dissident republicans

Two Londonderry men have pleaded guilty to having a handwritten note which was being smuggled into Maghaberry Prison for dissident republican prisoners.

The men are William McDonnell, 28, from Culfdaff Gardens in the Creggan area, and Thomas Ashe Mellon, 39, from Rathmore Gardens.

It was a handwritten note for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

Mr McDonnell was released on bail.

A sentencing date still has to be fixed for Mr McDonnell.

Mr Mellon was remanded back into custody to await a date for his trial to start.

Mr Mellon pleaded not guilty to directing the terrorist activities of the "new IRA" and being a member of the proscribed organisation on dates between 31 December 2012 and 7 June 2014.

Prosecution counsel Terence Mooney QC told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that the trial would last one day.

No details were given in court of the nature of the charges against the two defendants.

However, at a previous hearing in July 2014, a court heard that a note, handwritten on joined up pieces of cigarette paper and wrapped in cling film, was found in the possession of Mr McDonnell.

He was visiting Maghaberry jail to see an inmate held in the wing occupied by members of the so-called new IRA.

A police officer told the court that the DNA and handwriting tests on the letter, which was signed "T", provided evidence that Mr Mellon was the author.

At the time, Mr Mellon's lawyer refuted the police officer's assertion, saying his client did not accept he had written the note, saying the case against the defendant was "very, very weak".

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