Five men appeared in a Northern Ireland court today charged with membership of the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force, possession of equipment for carrying out acts of terrorism, and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.
The charges relate to an incident earlier this week when two cars were stopped at a police vehicle checkpoint on Caddy Road in Randalstown, County Antrim.
In the dock at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court were Jonathan Allen, 19, a joiner, of Corbally Park, Antrim; Clifford Allison, 24, unemployed, of Garden Village, Antrim; Philip Allison, 25, a mechanical engineer, from Derrygowan Road, Randalstown; Charles McCann, 29, a welder, from Tobergill Gardens, Antrim, and David Watkins, 31, a storeman, from Portlee Walk, Antrim.
The equipment they were alleged to have been carrying included woollen balaclavas, metal batons and latex gloves.
The court was told the charge of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm related to persons unknown.
A detective sergeant from Antrim police station told the court that, when charged, McCann and Clifford Allison said “not guilty” to all three charges, Philip Allison said “nothing to say” to the first charge, “I had nothing in my possession” to the second charge and “no, never conspired” to the third.
He said Watkins said “definitely not guilty” to all three charges, while Allen made no reply when the charges were put to him.
However, the detective added that he believed he had evidence which would connect all five men to the charges.
A solicitor representing Allen and Watkin said his clients deny membership of an illegal organisation.
Another solicitor representing Clifford Allison, Philip Allison and McCann asked why, when they were arrested on October 13, they were detained at Antrim Serious Crime Unit for two days before being charged.
The solicitor said that only four interviews were carried out on each of them while there were five detective teams available.
He added: “Is it not true that the reason why the investigation appeared so slow is that the evidence against both Allisons and Mr McCann is circumstantial in nature?”
The detective replied: “The evidence against all is strongly circumstantial, physical and verbal.”
The solicitor pointed out that all three of his clients have denied ever being involved in the UVF.
Both lawyers said they would be making applications to the High Court for bail.
The five, who smiled and waved at supporters as they left the dock, were remanded in custody for four weeks to appear by video link at the same court on November 13.