Dissident caught with names of PSNI officers in prison cell jailed for extra year

Connor Hughes
Connor Hughes

A convicted dissident republican bomber has been told he will have to spend another year in prison after he was caught with the names of judges and serving PSNI officers in his cell.

Connor Hughes (24), who is orginally from Altan Close, Dunmurry, had pleaded guilty to “possessing a document or record’’ likely to be of use to terrorist planning an act of terrorism.

Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Treacy said that Hughes had come from a “stable upbringing and also had a supportive family’’.

He added that it was “all the more disappointing that he has involved himself in this activity’’ while in custody for an explosives offence.

Mr Justice Treacy said this was “plainly an aggravating factor’’ that Hughes had the document in his cell so soon after he was sentenced for having explosives with intent to endanger life.

Belfast Crown Court was told that Hughes was eight months into an 11-year jail sentence when staff at Maghaberry Prison carried out the search when the list was found.

Prosecuting barrister Ian Tannahill said prison staff conducted the search at 11.45 am on October 2, 2015 when they “uncovered a list of names of 16 police officers and eight members of the judiciary’’.

The court was told that the search was carried out on Hughes’s cell at Roe House inside the Co Antrim prison.

“That’s a part of the prison where Oglaigh na hEireaan (ONH) are held. The list was found among a number of documents, which included shopping lists for the prison tuck shop, inside an A4 pad.’’

The documents were later handed over to the PSNI and the court heard that during interviews with detectives, Hughes “did not answer any questions.’’

The court was told that at the time Hughes was serving an 11-year sentence handed down in February 2015 for possession of explosives with intent to endanger life or damage property.

The sentence related to a police operation when PSNI officers stopped Hughes at the junction of the Glen Road and Shaws Road in west Belfast on March 27, 2014.

Hughes was carrying a holdall and when it was searched, the bag was found to contain “a number of wires and what was thought to be a firing pack”.

Officers immediately suspected this to be an improvised explosive device (IED) and Hughes was arrested under the Terrorism Act.

When stopped, Hughes was wearing six top layers of clothing as well as a scarf and gloves. The court heard Hughes “refused to identify himself at the scene” and also “didn’t warn officers dealing with him of the potential danger to them of the device he was carrying”.

The device in question was a blast-bomb type IED which was “fully constructed and connected, expect for the battery pack being attached at the command wire”.

The prosecutor also said the device was “a roadside bomb which would have been deployed against soft-skin vehicles or security forces in the open.”