PSNI chief has never discussed decommissioning weapons with loyalist Winston Irvine, court told

Winston Irvine, from the Ballysillan area of Belfast, is currently in custody on firearms charges. Credit: UTV Archive

A PSNI chief has never held discussions with leading loyalist Winston Irvine about decommissioning weapons, the High Court has been told.

Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton has also confirmed no telephone conversation took place between them on the day before a bag full of guns and ammunition was found in the boot of Irvine’s car, a judge was told.

Prosecutors provided the update as a second man accused in connection with the seizure in Belfast earlier this month mounted an application for bail.

Robin Workman, 51, of Shore Road in Larne, Co Antrim, is charged with possessing a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, possessing a prohibited firearm, possession of a handgun without a certificate, and having ammunition without a certificate.

The self-employed joiner allegedly transported the haul of guns to a meeting with Irvine in the Glencairn area on June 8.

Police claim Workman pulled up and retrieved an item from his van during an interaction between the two suspects.   

Irvine’s car was then stopped in Disraeli Street where officers discovered two suspected pistols, an air gun, magazines and more than 200 rounds of ammunition in a leather Calvin Klein holdall inside a plastic shopping bag in the boot.

He denied knowing anything about the contents of the bag.

Irvine, from the Ballysillan area of Belfast, is currently in custody on the same firearms charges.

His lawyer has described him as a “renowned peace builder” who believed he was taking the items from one person to “an honest broker on the other side".

It was previously suggested that he had been in telephone contact with ACC Singleton on July 7 - the day before his car was stopped - as part of efforts to help out weapons beyond use.

In court on Monday prosecution counsel said: “Mr Irvine did provide a prepared statement to say that he did work as an interlocutor, and he stated that by arrangement he had instructions to attend specific locations, including Disraeli Street, and he had previously been involved in the decommissioning of weapons.

“But he did not go so far in his prepared statement to say that was the precise purpose for his attendance at this time.”

She also provided a response from the senior PSNI officer to the purported contact.

“ACC Singleton has confirmed there was no telephone call between Mr Irvine and himself,” the barrister said.

“They did not speak on the phone on the 7 (of June), nor has he ever had any conversation in relation to the decommissioning of weapons with Mr Irvine.”

Workman was also arrested on June 8 after he attended a hospital appointment in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

Based on CCTV and forensic evidence, detectives believe he was the driver of the van involved in the exchange with Irvine.

His DNA is a potential contributor to a mixed profile found on the handle of the leather holdall, the court heard.

Opposing his release, the prosecutor contended: “What was recovered has all the hallmarks of a criminal organisation with ammunition and weapons at its disposal which look terrifyingly authentic.

A UVF jumper and magazine, paramilitary banner and books about weapons were also said to have been found at an address linked to Workman.

He denies being the driver of the van who took part in the alleged weapons handover.

Defence barrister Paul Bacon argued that CCTV footage of the incident was obscured, and stressed that his client was not picked out at an identification procedure.

“He is linked to this by a weak DNA hit on a moveable object, the handle of a bag,” Mr Bacon added.

Reserving judgment on the bail application, Mr Justice O’Hara said: “I want time to consider the submissions.”

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