Parcel bomb pair appeals refused
Two men jailed for sending parcel bombs to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other high-profile supporters of the club have lost an attempt to have their convictions overturned.
Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 43, were jailed for five years in April last year for conspiring to assault Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and the late QC Paul McBride by sending devices they believed were capable of exploding and causing severe injury.
McKenzie, from Saltcoats in Ayrshire, and Muirhead, from Kilwinning in Ayrshire, tried to have their convictions quashed at the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, where a hearing in the case was held in December.
Their legal teams argued there was insufficient evidence to allow the jury at the trial to find that the pair believed the packages were capable of exploding. But three senior appeal judges ruled that both convictions should stand. During a brief hearing, judge Lord Menzies told the court: "These appeals are refused."
The plot centred on four suspicious packages discovered in spring 2011.
A device sent to Lennon at Celtic's training ground in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, was intercepted at a sorting office in Kirkintilloch on March 26 that year when a postman spotted a nail protruding from it. Two days later a package delivered to Ms Godman's constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, caused the evacuation of the building. Another package addressed to republican organisation Cairde Na hEireann (Friends of Ireland) in Glasgow's Gallowgate was later found to contain potentially explosive peroxide. The final package, found in a postbox at Montgomerie Terrace in Kilwinning, was addressed to the late Mr McBride.
The prosecution's case was that, even though none of the devices was viable, Muirhead and McKenzie believed they were capable of exploding. Both men were originally accused of the more serious charge of conspiring to murder their targets but it was thrown out due to insufficient evidence a day before the trial concluded at the High Court in Glasgow. Giving evidence at the trial, Lennon said he was left "very disturbed" after finding out he was targeted. He said he "couldn't believe the lengths some people will go to".
At the appeal stage, lawyers for the two accused argued that their convictions for conspiracy to assault should be overturned because an actual explosion was not possible. It was "impossible" that the pair could have believed the packages were capable of exploding or igniting, and the prosecution evidence to that effect was of poor quality, it was claimed. But the Crown maintained there was sufficient evidence to entitle the jury to conclude that Muirhead and McKenzie believed the packages could ignite.
The judges' decision to uphold the convictions was set out in a 16-page written opinion issued following the hearing.
Lord Philip, who heard the case with Lord Menzies and Lady Clark, wrote: "In our view the evidence was sufficient to entitle (the jury) to draw the inference in relation to each appellant, first, that he had been party to an attempt to create an explosive substance for inclusion in the packages and, secondly, that he believed the various parcels sent comprised an improvised explosive device which was capable of igniting or exploding, causing injury." As a consequence, the grounds of appeal lodged by the pair should be rejected, he said.