Pair planned to burn pub

Court gavel
Court gavel

Two men who were caught discussing drugs deals and plans to burn down a pub via covert recordings were sent to jail on Friday.

Hugh Boyce (29) and 43-year James Kidd appeared at Belfast Crown Court where they admitted offences dating back to 2016.

While both men pleaded guilty to conspiring to burn down a pub in Craigavon, Boyce admitted he was involved in setting fire to the cars of three serving police officers in Co Down and Co Armagh.

The pair also admitted being concerned in the offer to supply the Class A drug cocaine, and being concerned in the supply of Class B cannabis, between June 11 and July 14, 2016.

While Boyce, from Fairway in Larne, was handed a two-year sentence, Kidd, from Broomhill Park in Portadown, received a 16-month sentence.

They were told by Judge David McFarland that they will serve half of their sentences in prison, followed by the same period on licence when they are released. Prior to sentencing, a prosecuting barrister said that in the early hours of April 10, 2016 a Toyota Corolla belonging to a policewoman and a Ford Fiesta van belonging to her husband were destroyed in an arson attack.

At around 11pm on April 27, 2016 an Audi A4 belonging to a police officer was set on fire, with the fire spreading to and damaging a neighbour’s car. And on April 30, another officer’s car was damaged by fire and he and his family had to be evacuated from their home for a period.

The prosecutor said that whilst there was no evidence to suggest Boyce was in the areas at the time and set the fires, he was involved via joint enterprise and was “part of a group involved in the destruction of these vehicles” - which was reflected in his guilty pleas. As a result of the three separate arson attacks, listening devices were installed in Kidd’s car and various conversations were recorded in June and July 2016.

The pair are recorded discussing drug deals, and on July 2, 2016 they are heard talking about a man walking on the street. Boyce says to Kidd “swing her round, I wonder would he be interested in any coke”. Other conversations about drugs included discussions about ‘bars of dope’ and ‘ounces of cannabis’.

Boyce and Kidd were also recorded talking about a plan to burn down a pub in Craigavon and during this discussion they talked about balaclavas, gloves, climbing over walls and petrol bombs.

They were arrested in July 2016 on their way to carry out a drug deal in Tyrone, with the prosecuting barrister saying they were “modest retailers” who used the money they made from dealing to fund their own drug use.

The prosecuting barrister told Judge McFarland there was enough evidence in the conversations to charge the pair with conspiring to burn down the pub, but said no action was taken and the pub wasn’t attacked. The barrister also spoke of “quite a lot of bravado going on during the conversations”.

Greg Berry QC, representing Boyce, said that since 2016 his client has moved away from negative peers, was now settled with a baby on the way and has shown a desire to “change, and put this offending behind him”. Mr Berry said that after serving time on remand for the offences, Boyce was released on bail with stringent conditions, which he adhered to.

Kidd’s barrister, Richard Greene QC, also said his client had “turned his life around”, no longer associated with the same people he did in 2016 and has “moved on”.