Former loyalist paramilitary jailed despite 'leniency' plea from Peter Robinson
A FORMER loyalist paramilitary has been jailed for two and a half years for having a cache of guns and ammunition - despite a plea from Northern Ireland 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 almost 40 years.
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.''
Tweed had pleaded guilty to possession of a haul of revolvers and pistols along with 2,500 rounds of ammunition and escaping lawful custody.
Prosecution QC David McDowell earlier told the court that allege that on April 19, 1974, police tried to stop a car Ford Cortina being driven by Tweed, then aged 32, in east Belfast but left the vehicle and made off on foot.
The court heard that a police officer caught him and grabbed his coat but Tweed removed the coat and made off for a second time.
During a subsequent search of the car he had been driving, police located a Walther pistol under the back seat.
Two days later, the court was told, RUC officers and members of the Royal Military Police went to a house at Jocelyn Avenue in east Belfast to carry out a further search.
The prosecution lawyer said that Tweed answered the door and was arrested.
During a search of the house, security force members found a "cache of firearms'' ammunition namely: six .45 calibre revolvers; two .22 calibre Star pistols; two .22 calibre pistols; a .22 calibre Browning pistol; a .22 calibre revolver, a .25 calibre Mauser pistol; a .38 Webley revolver; two .38 calibre revolvers; a .32 calibre pistol; a 9mm Beretta pistol; a 12 bore sawn-off shotgun; a 9mm magazine; a .22 calibre magazine and a quantity of assorted ammunition.
At interview, Tweed told police at the time of the seizure: "I accept responsibility for them.''
The following month on May 7, 1974, Tweed was present during a remand hearing at Belfast Magistrates' Court when proceedings were disrupted as he stood in the dock a denim-clad mob of teenagers who shouted "there's a bomb in here''.
During the upheaval, Tweed left the dock and escaped from the court.
He was arrested in 2012 after his lawyers had approached police and asked if there was anything outstanding against him, only to be told he was not wanted on any warrants.