A Co Tyrone woman who was caught with explosive substances in the boot of her car in Cookstown will be sentenced for the terrorist offence next month.
In a judgement reached by Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC, Nuala Gormley was acquitted of two terrorist-related charges, but found guilty of a third.
She will be sentenced for the offence of possessing articles for use in terrorism on December 22.
Gormley (38) from Morgan Park in Dromore stood trial at Belfast Crown Court earlier this year on three charges arising from the search of her vehicle at a filling station near Cookstown on August 6 last year. The trial was told that after purchasing fuel at the Kildress Service Station on the Drum Road, Gorman left the forecourt but returned a short time later.
Police then searched her blue Nissan Almera, and discovered several items in the boot of the vehicle. Explosive substances comprising of electronic items including remote signalling equipment were located hidden in an oil container wrapped up in netting. After being forensically tested, it was determined the items were component parts of an improvised explosive device
It was the Crown’s case that these items were for one purpose only - namely terrorism.
Gormley was present when her car was seized and the items were recovered. She was subsequently charges with three offences, namely possession of explosives with intent to endanger life or cause damage to property or enabling some other person to do so; possession of explosives in suspicious circumstances and possession of articles for use in terrorism.
In his judgement, Judge Kerr cleared Gormley of the ‘explosives’ charges but found her guilty of the third charge.
Judge Kerr said that in reaching his findings, he had considered both the Crown and defence cases. Acknowledging that the case against Gormley was “circumstantial” and that there was no forensic evidence to connect her to the items found in her boot, the Judge said the court could drawn inference from the fact she didn’t give evidence at her trial.
Had she given evidence, the Judge concluded, she would have been able to answer questions such as when she last looked in her boot, whether she saw the oil container in her boot and who she knew who would be likely to place such items in her car.
During the trial, her defence team made the case that she was someone who could have been taken advantage of and used by others. It emerged that she had issues with alcohol and was known to be careless with her home security and possessions such as her car keys.
Gormley’s sister gave evidence, and revealed her sister was frequently drunk. Her brother in law also gave evidence, and spoke of an occasion he called at her house and discovered someone sleeping in her car.
This carelessness, the defence argued, could have allowed ample opportunity for other people not before the court to have access to her vehicle without her knowledge.
Gormley’s barrister also made the case that there was no evidence to suggest she knew there were explosives in her boot, or that she had agreed to transport the items.
It was also pointed out that she had no criminal record, apart from a few minor motoring matters.
Judge Kerr said the items in question “are extremely valuable to terrorists”. He added that “terrorists would not contemplate such items being in danger of being discarded or handed in to police by an innocent driver.”
Regarding the first two explosives charges, the Judge ruled that he couldn’t be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Gormley knew the items in her boot were explosives and he therefore returned not guilty verdicts.
He did, however, say he was satisfied that Gormley possessed the items in the boot and that she was aware they were “related to terrorism.”
Pre-sentence reports were ordered and Gormley was told she will be sentenced for the single offence at Antrim Crown Court on December 22. She was then remanded back in to custody.