Co Antrim Republican sentenced over explosives back in jail after licence revoked

Niall Lehd (left) was mentioned during court hearings connected to British soldier Ciaran Maxwell (right) last year.

A Co Antrim man named during the trial of a British soldier convicted of possessing explosives has had his early release licence revoked.

It is understood Niall Lehd (28) was detained on the orders of secretary of state Karen Bradley on March 8.

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) last night said: “It would not be appropriate to comment on individual cases.”

It is believed the father-of-three, who is a member of the little-known anti-agreement Irish Republican National Congress (IRNC), has since been returned to Maghaberry Prison.

He was arrested in 2013 after a bag containing high explosives were found on a doorstep in Larne.

The haul included DDNP (Diazodinitrophenol), a military grade explosive never previously discovered in the north.

In 2014 he was sentenced to six years after pleading guilty to possessing explosives and having a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

Half his sentence was to be served on licence.

A judge said he did not consider Lehd to be dangerous and said there was “more of a risk to yourself than to others”.

Several references were also made to Lehd during court hearings connected to British soldier Ciaran Maxwell last year.

Maxwell, who was a member of the Royal Marines, was sentenced to 18 years after he pleaded guilty to storing explosives in the north of England and at hides near Larne in Co Antrim.

The haul included 14 pipe bombs, anti-personnel mines, two explosively formed projectiles (EFPs) and other component parts.

The Irish News understands the former British soldier believed he had supplied the explosives for use by the Continuity IRA.

Lehd was arrested in August 2016, the same month as Maxwell, and later released.

Lehd’s solicitor Aiden Carlin last night said he has been instructed to “challenge the lawfulness, necessity and proportionality of the Secretary of State’s decision to recall Niall Lehd to prison”.

“Our instructions are that since his release from prison two years ago Niall Lehd has positively contributed to his family and community. He has not been charged with any new offence,” he said.

“We intend to challenge the lawfulness, necessity and proportionality of the decision to recall Niall Lehd to prison.”

In a statement posted on a Facebook page set up to highlight his case Lehd said that after his release he set about rebuilding a life for himself, his partner and children.

“I have been given no reason why it has been seen fit to take a father away from his children the youngest being 18-months-old,” he said.

“It’s not just me but my family, friends and comrades who suffer at the hands of British internment.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the origional story.