Kidnappers jailed after 'level of violence and sadistic torture rarely seen,' Newry court told

Adam Potts (26) Mervyn Gibson (50) and Conor Campbell (30) were jailed after subjecting a kidnap victim to 'violence' and 'sadistic torture'

Three men who subjected a kidnap victim to a “level of violence and sadistic torture rarely seen in these courts” were handed sentences totalling more than 28 years on Tuesday.

While ringleader and instigator 26-year-old Adam Potts was handed a 14-year sentence with an extended licence period of three years, Mervyn Gibson (50) was handed an 11-year sentence and 30-year-old Conor Campbell a 38 month sentence.

Jailing the trio at Newry Crown Court, Judge Gordon Kerr KC said that having abducted their victim just after midnight on 8 November 2020 and held him for nine hours, the man had been “subjected to what can only be described as torture both physical and mental.”

Potts from Pine View Court in Gilford, Gibson, from Woodview Park in Tandragee and Campbell, from Pinebank in Craigavon all entered guilty pleas to kidnaping the victim and inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent on 8 November 2020 as well as possessing weapons with intent to assault.

While Gibson admitted having a crossbow with intent to assault, Potts entered guilty pleas to having a hammer and pliers with the same intent.

Rehearsing the facts of the case during his hour-long sentencing remarks, Judge Kerr outlined how the victim was at his flat in Co Armagh when just after midnight, Potts and Gibson arrived.

Shoving him on to his sofa, Potts used a hammer to hit him full force on each knee and dragging the “screaming” victim down the stairs, they forced him into a car being driven by Campbell.

On the 15 minute drive to a bungalow in the countryside, Gibson was “constantly” punching and elbowing the terrified victim who “did not retaliate, out of fear.”

When they reached the bungalow, Potts made the victim hold his hand on a windowsill “and smacked his hand twice with the hammer,” breaking his finger before stabbing him in the leg with a knife.

Forced back into the car when Gibson again rained blows on his head and upper body, Campbell drove them over the border while the kidnappers “talked about killing him and feeding him to pigs".

Fearing he was going to be killed, the victim told cops how they drove around looking for a village and for travellers “where he would get his head kicked in and he would disappear for good”.

The judge outlined how “they talked about having to burn the car but if they did, they would burn him in it” and eventually, they ended go back at Gibson’s house where he talked about his crossbow and “about getting cocaine or MDMA”.

Gibson shot the victim three times with the bow, firstly his left ankle with the bolt “going straight through,” then his right knee and then his left.

That was the last time the victim was shot because even with him screaming in pain again, Gibson was not able to retrieve the bolt from where it was lodged in his kneecap, the bolt refusing to budge despite Gibson pushing and pulling at it with pliers “for five to ten minutes”.

He wasn’t the only one to use the pliers however, as Potts used them to break one of the victim’s fingers.

Potts also hit him twice in the testicles with a litre bottle of vodka and stabbed him three times, making the chilling comment at one stage, while sticking the knife into an already existing stab wound, that “I’ll tell you one thing, you have a high tolerance for pain”.

“He also remembered that Potts had bitten his ear and threatened to rip his ear off,” he told the court.

More concerned about getting their hands on a bag of coke, the uncaring assailants “complained about the victim getting blood on the sofa” and bundling him back into car again, he was driven to Portadown and despite his pleas to “just drop him at the hospital,” Campbell said it was “too far out of his way”.

Ditched at the roadside near the bonfire site at Edgarstown at around 8am, the bleeding and badly injured victim tried to wave down passing cars but eventually encountered a man out walking and help was summoned.

In addition to the crossbow bolt still embedded in his knee, the victim had also sustained stab wounds to his upper and lower limbs, a broken left middle finger as well as generalised facial swelling and bruising.

Surgeons had to insert steel pins in his knee which was held in a brace for six months and “even now, he still has mobility issues and uses a walking stick”.

In addition to significant, ongoing physical pain, the victim continues to suffer serious psychological consequences such as PTSD, disturbed sleep and nightmares with the attack “impacting every aspect of his life and he fears that he may never be able to live alone or independently again.”

Despite those injuries, the victim was able to identify the defendants in a video police line up and the court heard there was also DNA and forensic evidence to connect each of the defendants to the shocking assault.

Arrested and interviewed, they all denied involvement but eventually admitted their guilt.

Judge Kerr told the court there were several aggravating factors in the case including that weapons were used in the pre-planned and premeditated attack where the victim was subjected to a “vicious ordeal” over many hours where the trio were “acting as a gang”,

Even though the court heard there was no evidence and no suggestion the victim had done anything wrong, the judge said it was also aggravating that the defendants out of “vigilante justice” and had left their victim with long-term consequences.

The only mitigation in the case was that the three had admitted their guilt, thereby saving the victim from having to relive his ordeal at their hands.

Taking each defendant in turn Judge Kerr revealed that Potts has 68 previous convictions including multiple entries for violence, the most significant of which was a GBH with intent where he stabbed his aunt’s partner in the chest

He said given that record, the level of violence and cruelty exhibited in the kidnap and assault of the victim, coupled with the contents of various reports “I’m satisfied that he meets the criteria” to be assessed as a danger to the public.

To that end, the judge said he was imposing a 14-year sentence with an extended period on licence of three years.

That means that Potts will only be freed when the parole commissioners decide that he is safe to release and under what licence conditions but he may have to serve the full 14 years.

In relation to Gibson, Judge Kerr said it was with “considerable reluctance” that he was persuaded not to find him as a dangerous offender also but reflecting his role and the fact that he has no convictions for violence, he imposed an 11 year sentence, half to be served in jail and half on licence.

Turning to Campbell, the judge said he had sought to minimise his role as “just the driver” but “this wasn’t just a trip from A to B” and the 30-year-old had witnessed much of the violence perpetrated against the victim.

Imposing a 38-month sentence, he ordered Campbell to serve 14 months in jail and the rest on licence in order to address his addiction issues.

In addition to the jail sentences, Judge Kerr also imposed 15 year restraining orders.

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