Armagh man cleared as MI5 plot falters

A county Armagh man has been cleared after a judge ruled that he had been entrapped by an MI5 attempt to snare him and a friend in an arms smuggling plot.

Desmond Kearns, from Lurgan, was charged with attempting to smuggle weapons and explosives from mainland Europe. after being targeted by a sting operation involved MI5 agents posing as arms dealers,

The trial heard that Mr Kearns and his wife had originally been approached by a man calling himself ‘Amir’ when buying cigarettes at a store in Belgium in 2005.

‘Amir’, who was an MI5 agent, initially offered to sell the couple cheap cigarettes but later alleged that they had asked him to supply weapons.

During the trial it was revealed that Amir had demanded 650,000 and a medal from the queen to give evidence in the case.

Under cross-examination the agent admitted that he had only agreed to cooperate after his former MI5 bosses threatened to arrest him and expose his identity.

However, the case against Mr Kearns dramatically collapsed on Friday when trial judge Justice Hart ruled that ‘Amir’ hed deliberately entrapped him.

“The defence have satisfied me that Kearns’s conduct was brought about by the misconduct of Amir during those meetings, that the offences were artificially created by that misconduct and that the administration of justice would be brought into disrepute were the prosecution permitted to continue,” he said.

He said that, having reviewed the evidence “the edifice of the prosecution case now rests on inadequate foundations and therefore that edifice cannot stand”.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Kearns said: “This has been four of the worst years of my life.

“I was held in jail for 13 months and have had this nightmare hanging over me since 2006.

“All of the evidence clearly showed I’d been set up by MI5 from the start. I should never have been charged.”

He said supposed surveillance tapes in which his wife was said to have talked about guns went missing when his defence team sought to challenge them and MI5 also lost transcripts of alleged conversations and notes of a debriefing of ‘Amir’.

“Thankfully the judge saw that Amir and MI5 were lying from the start,” Mr Kearns said.

The prosecution declined to appeal the verdict.

However, the judge refused a similar application to stop the trial on behalf of another Lurgan man, Paul McCaugherty, who was also caught in the same sting operation.

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