Dissident gun ‘reactivator’ jailed (UTV)

A Newry engineer who reactivated guns for dissident republicans has been jailed for six and a half years.

Bryan Christopher McManus, 56, was ordered on Friday to spend half his sentence in jail and half on licence parole.

Handing out the sentence, Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland told him he had “made a very bad decision to associate with undesirable elements”.

The Belfast Crown Court judge said while he accepted McManus’ life had gone into a “downward spiral, albeit it was all of your own making”.

During a previous hearing the court had heard how McManus claimed he reactivated firearms which had been put beyond use after the terrorists told him the weapons were for defensive purposes in interface areas between loyalists and republicans.

McManus, from Aileen Terrace in Newry, who told police he was ‘the best toolmaker they would ever meet’, pleaded guilty to possessing eight handguns, including one which was disguised as the removable handle of a walking cane.

He also admitted having a rifle, component parts of weapons, seven magazines and a quantity of assorted ammunition including armour piercing and expanding, or ‘dum dum’ bullets, designed to expand on impact.

McManus also pleaded guilty to conspiring with another person not before the court to convert imitation guns into firearms on dates between 1 September 2007 and 24 September 2010.

The weapons haul was recovered from outbuildings behind his house in September 2010 and defence QC Philip Irvine revealed he had been modifying previously deactivated guns for several years.

The lawyer said police had alerted McManus to a number of threats on his life and after the last one in 2007 the accused made contact with what he described as ‘certain elements’ who might be able to provide him with protection.

He said McManus was able to reactivate a gun which was given to him by a man referred to only as Mr X who then asked him to undertake other similar work.

The lawyer said McManus had become indebted to the people who had provided him with the weapon and “things spiralled out of control”.

McManus told police that veiled threats had been made against his family and he felt that he was caught in a trap so he continued to reactivate firearms.

During interviews, he said he believed that Mr X and his associates were members of the Real IRA who told him the guns were for defensive purposes in interface areas.

The defence lawyer said that McManus had initially seen the work on reactivating the weapons as a challenge to his engineering skills, but eventually botched some of the jobs and he was relieved when he was caught.

He said McManus wasn’t a member of any terrorist organisation and had been preyed upon by more sinister people and he wasn’t able to say no to them.

On Friday Judge McFarland said that given the nature of the offences and that he had provided valuable engineering assistance to terrorists, he had to consider whether or not McManus posed a significant risk of harm to the public.

Having read the reports and references compiled about the toolmaker, he had decided he did not pose a risk but the judge did put in place a 15 year serious crime prevention order which means the authorities can investigate McManus’ activities.

Commenting following the sentencing, PSNI Detective Superintendent Glenn Wright, from Serious Crime Branch, said: “The seizure of these weapons undoubtedly prevented the commission of serious offences.

“I commend the courage and professionalism of my colleagues in this investigation. Their actions have made Northern Ireland a safer place.”


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