A MAN was remanded into custody on Saturday in connection with a pipe bomb attack in Broughshane.
Brian David Dean (54), formerly with an address in Belfast but who had been living in Glasgow, appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court via video link from Musgrave police station in Belfast.
Detectives from Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Criminal Investigation Branch investigating a security alert in the Rocavan Meadow area of Broughshane on June 15, 2020, charged the defendant with making explosives with intent to endanger life.
At court the defendant confirmed he understood the charge.
A police officer said he believed he could connect him to the charge.
The judge said the case outline he had been given was that on June 15 2020 a person left their home about 5pm and received a call from an uncle that a “pipe bomb had fallen off his car and was lying on the driveway”.
The court said the person believed the device was placed some time after 11pm the night before.
The judge said: “ATO attended and made it safe but subsequent examination found the defendant’s DNA on the device.
“The allegation is that he is linked to the West Belfast UDA, is that correct?”
The detective said that was correct.
The judge said the case outline before the court was that the defendant had to leave Northern Ireland in September 2020 “due to a threat”.
The detective said was also correct.
The judge said the defendant was arrested in Glasgow on May 6 this year in connection with the Broughshane incident and “various items were found of interest to someone who would be supportive of the UDA, to put it bluntly, and of a Young Defenders Flute Band, which is of interest to police”.
The police officer said: “Yes, the Dervock Young Defenders Flute Band is at the heart of a feud between North Antrim UDA and West Belfast UDA of which he was affiliated”.
The judge said the court outline said the defendant had given an interview to a Sunday newspaper in September 2020.
The detective said that was correct and the defendant had been “described as Military Commander for West Belfast UDA”.
The judge said a “firework launcher” had been found in the defendant’s room.
The judge said the court outline said the Broughshane pipe bomb had contained “15 grammes of firework explosives”.
The court heard the accused made a ‘no comment’ interview.
The judge said the defendant had 52 previous convictions which included “arson, firearms, riot, robbery, serious assault and petrol bombing I think also and there is a conviction for possession of articles for use in terrorism. In November of 2019 he received a suspended sentence so that is still current.
“This is nine months suspended for three years for possession of articles for use in terrorism, possession of documents or records likely to be of use to terrrorists, Laganside Crown Court, 8th of November, 2019”.
The police officer objected to bail saying he believed the defendant could “abscond”.
The detective said the defendant had been moving his car keys on Friday night and had said he would “hardly be seeing his car for a long time”.
The officer added: “So he realises there is potential for a lengthy prison sentence”.
The officer said the fear was that he may not return to court.
The detective said there were also fears for the safety of the defendant who “received a threat in September that criminal elements were trying to locate him to carry out some form of attack”.
The PSNI man said it was also believed the defendant could commit “further offences”.
The detective said in the interview with the Sunday newspaper the defendant said he would “exact bloody revenge if any harm came to his friends”.
A defence lawyer said there was a bail address which would be suitable for the defendant which was known to police but he did not intend to mention it in court.
The lawyer said there had been “no issue of attacks” on the defendant since he “re-located”.
The lawyer said there had been “no re-offending”.
He said issues were raised about DNA on “one part” of a pipe bomb and he said police had been in possession of a report since last autumn saying the defendant’s DNA was on a “fuse” of a pipe bomb.
The lawyer told the court that if the police had “any real concerns” about a “potential builder of pipe bombs” the PSNI had “sat on this” for around six months.
The defence lawyer said when pushed on the delay the police mentioned “Covid”.
The lawyer said he did not accept there had been a “delay due to Covid”.
The lawyer said if the police had concerns about a “potential pipe bomber”; about the safety of the defendant and the risk of further offending, the PSNI should have acted sooner.
He said any trial may not take place until towards the end of 2022 “due to the current backlog”.
The judge asked the police officer how long they had the DNA report and the detective said they had it “before Christmas” and had been in “constant contact” with Police Scotland to “launch a joint operation”.
The officer said there was a “large amount of logistics involved” with “firearms teams that were used in Glasgow along with their Terrorism Unit”.
The policeman said investigating detectives and “trained escort marshals” had to go from Belfast by boat to Scotland “in order to escort him back so there was a lot of logistics involved”.
The officer said if the defendant had said he had Covid he would not have been allowed on the ship.
The judge said: “It sounds to me like an unconscionable delay, frankly. It should have dealt with quicker than that”.
The judge said he was not persuaded the defendant was a “flight risk because where would he go?”.
He said the case would take some time to come to court.
The judge said the defendant was charged with making explosives with intent and he had 52 prior convictions including terrorism-related offences.
The judge was also concerned about “statements attributed to him in the media and I therefore do fear further offences were he to be released. Bail is refused”.
The case was adjourned to May 20.
At the time of last year’s incident in Broughshane police said a “viable device” had been found and a number of residents were evacuated.
A PSNI spokesperson had said: “This reckless act was beyond irresponsible and the people behind this cowardly act have no regard for human life. This could have had potentially devastating consequences.”