Robinson appealed for leniency for former loyalist paramilitary
A former loyalist paramilitary was jailed for two-and-a- half years yesterday for having a cache of guns and ammunition, despite a plea from First Minister Peter Robinson to "show leniency".
Mr Robinson was one of a number of DUP politicians who wrote letters to Belfast Court urging the judge not to jail 74-year-old Samuel Tweed, who had been on the run from police for more than 40 years.
In his letter, Mr Robinson said: "I am writing this letter as a matter of urgency in the sentence of Mr Samuel Tweed."
He wrote that Tweed had now "shown remorse for his actions" and "has since lived a law abiding life".
He added that in the context of the early release scheme he was "urging leniency in this particular and unusual case".
Tweed had pleaded guilty to possession of a haul of revolvers and pistols along with 2,500 rounds of ammunition, and escaping lawful custody.
Tweed, of Mark Street, Newtownards, was told by Judge Philip Babington: "These were, and are, serious offences, albeit you were younger but that does not diminish the seriousness of the offence in any way at all.
"I am satisfied that you have lived a lawful and law abiding life over the last 40 years.
"However, that does mean that the offences are any less serious, far from it."
Prosecution QC David McDowell earlier told the court that on 19 April 1974, police tried to stop a Ford Cortina being driven by Tweed, then aged 32, in east Belfast, but he left the vehicle and made off on foot.
During a subsequent search of the car he had been driving, police located a Walther pistol under the back seat. Two days later he was arrested at a house on Jocelyn Avenue in east Belfast and a "cache of firearms" and ammunition was recovered.
At interview, Tweed told police at the time of the seizure: "I accept responsibility for them."
The following month, on May 7, 1974, Tweed escaped from Belfast Magistrates' Court during a remand hearing which was disrupted when a group of teenagers shouted "there's a bomb in here".
He was arrested in 2012.