Royal Marine who gave bombs to IRA dissidents jailed for 18 years
'Committed' terrorist hid cache of mines, mortars, ammunition and pipe bombs
A "committed" terrorist who infiltrated the British military has been jailed for 18 years for supplying bombs to dissident republicans.
Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell stashed anti-personnel mines, mortars, ammunition and 14 pipe bombs - four of which were later used - in 43 purpose-built hides at eight locations in Northern Ireland and England.
Bomb-making materials were found in barrels and buckets buried in the ground, as well as an adapted PSNI pass card, a PSNI uniform and a police stab-proof vest.
Some of his stash could have been used to make an explosive larger than the 1987 Enniskillen bomb.
The 31-year-old, who is originally from Larne, Co Antrim, and was with 40 Commando based at Norton Manor Camp in Taunton, Somerset, at the time of the offences, pleaded guilty to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August last year, possessing images of bank cards for fraud and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney said Maxwell used his military know-how to accumulate and construct his devices. She described the infiltration of the military by a republican terrorist as "very unusual".
Police fear weapons he built may still be in circulation.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "I'm sure that you were and will remain motivated by dissident republican sympathies and a hostility to the UK.
"There was clearly the potential for the deployment of many bombs of varying types and sizes against multiple targets, with the ultimate intent of those planting the devices being to kill.
"There was considerable planning, including attack planning, research, and the acquiring of large amounts of materials including police items for use in disguise.
"You were strongly committed to the cause."
Maxwell was handed an 18-year jail term with another five years on licence.
He was given an 18-month sentence for possessing cannabis with a street value of £8,100, and two years for fraud. Both sentences will run concurrently.
Maxwell, described by the judge as an "inveterate record-keeper", showed little emotion as the sentence was handed down.
The Old Bailey heard that the father-of-one researched targets and discussed plans to attack police stations and officers.
His plot, however, was foiled when members of the public stumbled across his weapons hides by chance.
DNA evidence found on parts of the haul led them to Maxwell, who was on the national database due to his alleged involvement in an unrelated assault case.
Paul Hynes QC, defending, told the court his client was not ideologically driven and would not have used violence for a cause. He said it was Niall Lehd, said to be a member of the Continuity IRA, who was the "instigator" of a joint venture with Maxwell.
The court was told Maxwell had been brought up as a Catholic in a largely loyalist town and suffered a fractured skull as a 16-year-old when he was the victim of a sectarian attack. Maxwell, who had been living in Exminster in Devon before his arrest, was due to be promoted to corporal before he was dismissed from the service.