Smuggled letter case: Judgement reserved

Judge's court wig
Judge's court wig

Judgement has been reserved in the case of a Londonderry man who wrote a note being smuggled to dissident prisoners but who denies directing the activities of the IRA.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Thomas Ashe Mellon (39), from Rathmore Road, Creggan, admitted writing and possessing it “in circumstances which gave rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession was for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism”.

However, he denied that, between December 2013 and last June, he not only directed the activities of the IRA but was also a member, or professed to be a member, of the organisation.

The handwritten note, made up of a dozen sheets of cigarette papers stuck together and wrapped in clingfilm, was found on William McDonnell (28) during a visit to Maghaberry Prison on June 5 last year.

McDonnell, from Culdaff Gardens, is also awaiting sentence on a similar charge to Mellon.

In Mellon’s case, the prosecution said while much of the evidence was agreed, what was at issue was the interpretation of the note itself. Mellon’s failure to give evidence and the content, context and circumstances behind the note also had to be considered.

Belfast Recorder, Judge David McFarland, said he would deliver his judgement before the end of term.

He also indicated that, whatever his verdict, he would also sentence both Mellon and McDonnell for having the smuggled note.