Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Dissident suspect is refused bail

Colin Duffy
Colin Duffy has been in custody since March

A judge has refused a bail application by a prominent republican charged with the Real IRA murders of two soldiers at an Army base in March.

Lurgan man Colin Duffy, 41, is one of two men charged with murdering Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey outside Massereene barracks in Antrim.

Duffy has been in custody since March when he was charged with murder.

He is also charged with five counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of a firearm.

Mr Justice Weatherup ruled Duffy should remain in custody due to the gravity of the offences and the continued threat posed by the dissident faction held responsible.

Despite stressing the presumption of innocence, the judge held that the balance fell in favour of protecting the public.

He said: "It is a very serious matter which resulted in the loss of two lives and there is a group, this Real IRA, which appears intent on repeating this loss of life being inflicted on others.

"If people are committed to a terrorist group of any character and are prepared to involve themselves in offences such as these then it certainly is a very plausible prospect that they will continue to do so."

Prosecutors claim soil found on a boot belonging to him is similar to a sample in the getaway car used by the killers.

It has also been alleged that the chances of a DNA profile on a latex glove particle recovered from the floor of the vehicle belonging to anyone else other than Duffy were less than one in one billion.

Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey
Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey were shot in Antrim

Earlier in his adjourned bail application, the court heard that two masked gunmen fired more than 60 rounds at the victims before escaping in a waiting car.

It was later found partially burnt out in Randalstown, with forensic examinations carried out on the tip of a glove retrieved from the front passenger side of a vehicle said to have been purchased in the previous month.

Mixed profiles from up to three people were also found on a seatbelt buckle. A forensic scientist concluded that one of them could have come from Duffy, according to the prosecution.

Further searches of a glove compartment located the same type of ammunition used in the attack, while a bag found in the boot contained camouflage jackets, trousers and more bullets, the court heard.

Opposing bail, Crown counsel said: "This is also clearly one of the most serious offences to take place in this jurisdiction in 10 years.

"It involved two deceased and four seriously injured people."

Duffy's lawyer claimed only a tenuous case existed against the accused.

Dissident threat

He argued that despite a preliminary inquiry being scheduled for next month, there was little chance of Duffy standing trial before next autumn.

The lawyer also raised issues around difficulties with legal aid to obtain a forensic expert, and pointed out that his client has not been charged with membership of any outlawed organisation.

He added: "Prior to the arrest of Mr Duffy for these offences as alleged Mr Duffy has never been charged, far less questioned, far less arrested, far less any finger of suspicion pointed by police giving rise to investigation into Mr Duffy in relation to dissident republican activity.

"Mr Duffy was himself subject to dissident republican threats in his past."

However, Mr Justice Weatherup ruled that the balance fell against releasing the accused due to a combination of the seriousness of the charges, the ongoing threat by the dissidents blamed, and the likely gravity of any new crimes that could be committed.

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