FORMER PIRA MEMBER THOUGHT TO BE FIRST CONVICTION FROM DRONE DEVICE
DRONES are being used by the security services (MI5) to track dissident republicans from the skies, The Irish News has learned.
On Thursday a former Provisional IRA member became the first person convicted by covert surveillance evidence gathered from an unmanned aerial vehicle. Tony Taylor (45), of Bishop Street in Derry, was arrested along with Mark Anthony Kerr (26) in August 2011. They were sentenced at Belfast Crown Court, having pleaded guilty to possession of a rifle in January. It was not disclosed in court but The Irish News has learned that a British Army drone was used tracking Taylor’s movements prior to his arrest. Police had also been listening to live audio from a listening device fitted to the car of a third man who was arrested on the day but later released without charge. The court was told both men were being closely monitored “on the ground and in the sky”. Last year the PSNI purchased three aerial drones ahead of the G8 summit in Co Fermanagh. However, at the time of Taylor’s arrest they did not possess such technology and a military drone fitted with cameras is bbelieved to have been used instead. The level of surveillance used in the North of Ireland to combat the dissident republican threat is believed to be at a record high. The first sighting of the new PSNI/RUC drones was in Ardoyne, North Belfast, in November last year. A PSNI/RUC spokesman said at the time: “A limited aerial capability was required during in order to keep the community, police and army officers safe. These systems are flown in accordance with Civil Aviation Authority approval.” Police had previously attempted to withhold evidence from the men’s defence teams revealing Taylor was under secret surveillance. The drone observed him going into the Abercorn Bar and as he left recorded overhead footage of him walking down the hill and talking into the passenger window of Kerr’s Red Red Peugeot car. Republican Network for Unity (RNU) spokesman Carl Reilly said: “We are told the British army are no longer on the streets and that policing and justice have been reformed. Yet here we have a situation were some former prisoners are protected while Tony Taylor, who had not received so much as a parking ticket in the 16 years since he was released, was being followed by drones and jailed by a British Diplock court”. Levels of surveillance being used in the North of Ireland to combat the dissident republican threat are believed to be at record levels. In December Colin Duffy (46) from Lurgan and Belfast men Alec McCrory (52) and Harry Fitzsimmons (45) were arrested in connection with a shooting in Ardoyne in North Belfast during which a police convoy came under fire. The arrest was said to have been made following an unprecedented level of covert surveillance on the three who are currently remanded in custody.
Dissident republicans struggling in face of covert advances
TECHNOLOGY has advanced dramatically in recent years and with it so too has policing. Listening devices, GPS tracking and aerial drones just some of the tools now forming part of modern-day police investigations.
Covert surveillance has played a major role in almost every paramilitary-related arrest made in the past three years. This has involved both police and military intelligence forces using a variety of techniques to track suspects. Sources say that this has led to a complete rethink in the current direction of the two main dissident groups, the merger group known as the IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann. Senior figures have walked away after a series of arrests left them disillusioned. Sources say those remaining are actively recruiting younger members who have knowledge of technological advances. Since the Provisional IRA ceasefire dissident groupings have relied heavily on former Proviisionals to provide leadership and training. However, these older members who operated the IRA campaign in a different era and have little knowledge or understanding of technology are being considered more of a liability than an asset. Millions of pounds are being invested in combating the dissident paramilitary threat with vast sums being spent on technology. Being able to operate any kind of armed campaign when faced with such monitoring is proving increasingly difficult for the dissidents.
With many thanks to: Allision Morris, The Irish News.