Belfast Crown Court. Alamy Stock Photo
belfast crown court

Dissident Republican jailed over offences connected to attempt to kill PSNI officer

Gavin Coyle pleaded guilty to membership of the IRA and providing his car to be used for the purpose of terrorism.

A CO TYRONE man has been sentenced to six years in jail after pleading guilty to offences connected to an attempt by dissident republicans to kill a police officer.

Gavin Coyle, 46, of Mullaghmore Drive in Omagh, will be eligible for release after four years.

Earlier this year, Coyle pleaded guilty to membership of the Irish Republican Army between 1 May 2007 and 13 May 2008

He also pleaded guilty to providing property to be used for the purpose of terrorism, his Audi A4 car — on 11 May 2008.

That car was used in the dissident operation to plant a bomb under the car of a serving police officer.

On 12 May 2008, a police officer was seriously injured after a bomb planted under their car exploded near Castlederg as they drove to work.

The Tyrone brigade of the Real IRA claimed responsibility for the bomb.

During a sentencing hearing at Belfast Crown Court today, it was said that while Coyle supplied his car, he did not know the precise action that was to be carried out.

The court heard the officer had got into their car which had been in their driveway and set off for work. During the journey, a bomb attached underneath the driver’s seat of the car exploded.

“The windows of the car shattered, and various parts of the vehicle became dislodged, somehow he managed to take control of the vehicle and bring it to a halt,” Judge Patricia Smyth told the sentencing hearing.

“He recalled looking down and seeing his jeans were ripped, there was blood everywhere.

“He managed to unbuckle his seatbelt and exit the car, he began making his way along the road shouting for help … it was clear that he was in a lot of pain. He collapsed on the side of the road as a result of his injuries which were serious and substantial.”

The vehicle later exploded.

The officer was described as having been left with permanent disfiguring injuries, battling mental ill health and lost his home with serious financial consequences.

The court heard that the stress wrecked the officer’s personal life, and from having a clear career goal the officer is unable to pursue goals and his career has spiralled downwards.

In sentencing, Judge Smyth took into account the guilty pleas, which avoided the need for a lengthy trial.

She sentenced Coyle to six years, of which he will have to serve two thirds before he will become eligible for release.

Reacting outside court, Detective Inspector Hazel Miller of the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s major investigation team, welcomed the sentencing.

“No-one should ever have to experience such a cruel ordeal, the lasting impact of which isn’t just felt by the victim, but by family and loved ones too,” she said.

“This was a cowardly, calculated and cold-blooded attack, carried out with one aim: to take the life of a police officer.

“Gavin Coyle accepts that he was a member of the IRA and that he provided his car to others knowing it would be used for the purpose of terrorism.

“Our officers are committed to keeping people safe. Their dedication, and indeed the actions of those members of the public who ran to help, are in stark contrast to those intent on harming and killing.”

She added: “Today, Coyle has been held accountable for his role in this nightmarish attack.

“We will continue to robustly investigate and disrupt the criminal and terrorist activities of those who bring violence to our doorsteps. This, of course, relies upon collective efforts and I am appealing to anyone with information, or indeed concerns, to contact us on 101.”

Press Association