21 April 2005

BBC

Real IRA bomb plot appeal fails


Aiden Hulme (right) and his brother Robert were each jailed for 20 years

A man jailed for 20 years over Real IRA bombings in England has failed to have his conviction overturned on appeal.

Aiden Hulme, 27, was convicted of conspiring to cause a series explosions in 2001 in London and Birmingham.

His lawyer claimed the jury at his trial should not have been shown evidence of text messages said to link him to the attacks.

Judges rejected the appeal. They also refused Noel Maguire, convicted with Hulme, leave to appeal his sentence.

No-one was killed in the attacks, which took place on Saturday evenings between March and November 2001.

The first blast was outside the BBC Television Centre, west London, followed by bombings in Ealing Broadway, west London, and Queensway, Birmingham.

'Threats'

The trial judge, Mr Justice Gibbs, said in sentencing that the campaign had been "designed as threats to the country as a whole" and it was a "mercy" no lives had been lost.


Two of the men's co-accused pleaded guilty to the charges

Hulme and his brother Robert, then 23, were each jailed for 20 years while Maguire, then 34, received a 22-year sentence.

Mr Justice Gibbs said Maguire had played "a major part in the conspiracy".

All three had denied involvement in the attacks.

On Thursday, defence QC Richard Ferguson told the Appeal Court that the first of the text messages shown to the trial jury, which read "up the Provos, up the Provos", was both "ambivalent and ambiguous".

The second, which showed fizzing sticks followed by the words "what were you at last night" could merely show ignorance about Hulme's whereabouts, he said.

He added that since it was never established who sent the messages, they could not be seen as "furtherance of the conspiracy".

'Encouragement'

For the crown, Orlando Powell QC told the judges there was "clearly" prima facie evidence allowing the jury to conclude that the messages had been sent by a conspirator.


Several were hurt in the blasts, which used homemade explosive

He said the jury was entitled to ask itself "whether a terrorist cell already operating in this country would have need to contact others out of the jurisdiction".

"It is in circumstances that a terrorist cell operating on the mainland requiring support, influence, encouragement and help from conspirators operating in Ireland, that the text messages have to be viewed," he said.

After a short retirement, Lord Justice Kennedy, Mr Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Wilkie rejected the appeal.

"We have ... come to the conclusion that this appeal against conviction must be dismissed for reasons which we will give in writing in due course," Lord Justice Kennedy said.

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