PUBLICLY, the PSNI have welcomed the sentence handed down to a dissident republican bomb maker.
Niall Lehd, 25, of Seahill Road, Larne, Co Antrim, was jailed for three years after pleading guilty to possession of explosives with intent to endanger life and having a firearm and magazine in suspicious circumstances.
Privately, police are said to be “disappointed” that Lehd didn’t receive a double figure sentence of ten years
This afternoon, detectives from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch welcomed the six-year sentence imposed on Lehd over the explosives hoard found in February last year.
According the PSNI, police had responded to a report of a loud explosion in the general area of the Seacourt estate in Larne on 27 February which caused damage to a house.
Following this incident, members of the public reported suspicious activity in the area.
This resulted in a bag being located by community representatives the next day near a local factory.
The bag contained metal pipes, ball bearing mix, a deactivated firearm, a magazine, fuse wire, switches, a plastic lunch box, tape, sugar and explosives. Niall Lehd was arrested close to the cordon which had been set up by police as part of the search and clearance operation.
Lehd’s fingerprint was located on the firearm magazine found in the bag.
He admitted having various items which could be used to make an Improvised Explosive Device.
A spokesman for Serious Crime Branch said: “These explosive substances were extremely volatile and presented a significant risk to the public.
“Thanks to the vigilance of the local community, the assistance of community representatives and the professionalism of police and Army bomb disposal officers, this individual’s activities were confined to causing damage to a house.
“The outcome could have been much more serious, had the explosives and firearm not been recovered.
“Police will continue to work with all those who want to keep our homes, streets and communities safer for everyone. We would encourage anyone with information about dissident terrorist activity to provide information to police.”
At Laganside Court today Lehd was sentenced to three years in jail and three years on licence.
However, behind the scenes police had expected Lehd to get a longer sentence.
“People are disappointed that he didn’t get longer,” said a security source.
“There was a feeling that he should have got ten years at least, with at least five in custody.”
Photo caption – the contents of Lehd’s bag which included explosives, a firearm and fuse wire.