THREE Co Antrim men were today sentenced at Belfast Crown Court for attempting to purchase various items online including firearms and drugs in February 2017 over the dark web linked to a violent UDA feud.
The prosecution was a result of an investigation by the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF).
Darren Bennett (23) from Carrickfergus pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess two Glock pistols firearms and 20 rounds of ammunition with intent.
He was sentenced to four years in prison, 20 months in custody and 28 months on licence.
Bennett also pleaded guilty to attempting to possess class A drugs with intent to supply and was sentenced to a further 30 month sentence – 15 in custody and 15 on licence – to run concurrently.
Thomas Morgan (42) from Carrickfergus also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess firearms with intent and was sentenced to four years in prison, 20 months in custody and 28 months on licence.
Scott McMurran (26) from Belfast pleaded guilty to encouraging and assisting the offence of attempting to possess class A drugs with intent to supply and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service over 12 months and 18 months probation.
Detective Inspector Lynne Knox from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force said: “Officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force arrested these three men in relation to various offences including attempts to purchase firearms, ammunition and drugs online.
“I welcome today’s sentencing which demonstrates our commitment to removing firearms and drugs from our communities.
“We believe these weapons would have ended up under the control of paramilitaries who seek to rule communities with fear.
“In this case we believe these weapons may have been destined for use by the South East Antrim UDA.
“These men were attempting to bring lethal weapons and drugs onto our streets.
“Guns are used for one purpose only and that is to kill and maim.
“There is no reason to justify why anyone would want to bring guns into our communities which pose a threat to everyone.
“When a gun is fired there is no guarantee where the bullet could end up or who it could harm.
“I am confident that the streets are safer now that we have prevented these men getting hold of weapons and ammunition.
“In addition, a quantity of class A drugs was seized which I believe Mr Bennett intended to sell. Drugs cause harm and misery to those who take them, as well as to families who watch the effects of these substances on their loved ones.
“Individuals involved in this type of criminality destroy lives and have no legitimate place in our society.
“We are committed to tackling illegal activity linked to drugs and firearms to ensure that communities can thrive and be free from the intimidation and violence,” added DI Knox.