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[28 SEP 00] CRIMES, FIRES & ACCIDENTS
Terrorists Jailed For Sending Guns to Baginton

Gun runners who tried to smuggle arms through Coventry Airport have been sent to jail, but the judge said they should have faced the death penalty.

The American judge criticised US law, saying it was impossible for him to have given a harsher penalty to the trio, who received sentences between three and almost five years.

They were picked up after guns, labelled as videos and baby equipment, were intercepted by security checks as they went through the Baginton airfield. The packages were on their way to addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Conor Claxton, 28, Martin Mullan, 30, and Anthony Smyth, 43, were convicted in June of shipping weapons to Ireland and related crimes.

Of the guns they ordered, 86 were shipped before their arrest and 57 of those were seized by police. But 29 guns were not traced and their whereabouts are unknown.

The three defendants were acquitted of the most serious charges against them - shipping weapons to terrorists and conspiracy to maim or murder persons in a foreign country. 

The conspiracy to murder or maim charge could have resulted in a life sentence.

Claxton, the ringleader who admitted to being an IRA member, asked Judge Ferguson to be lenient upon his co-defendants, who were both later sentenced to three years each and he added:

"I would like to think that today we are making history, but this will be the last time a judge sentences a man from Ireland for something like this.

The West Belfast resident was convicted on 39 counts, including using a false passport to facilitate terrorism, weapons smuggling and conspiracy. 

Federal law books say those convictions could bring a maximum sentence of 275 years in prison, but judges are bound by guidelines that take many things into consideration.

Smyth, a car salesman, was convicted on 31 counts, including weapons smuggling, the unlawful sale of firearms and making false statements to a firearms dealer.  

Mullan, a Philadelphia handyman, was convicted on 10 counts, including weapons smuggling and possession of a weapon by an illegal alien.

The investigation involved Warwickshire and Metropolitan Police along with forces in Ireland and the USA. 

The Parcelforce depot where the guns were detected has since been replaced by a larger building at the other end of the airfield.
    

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CWN / Crimes, Fires & Accidents / 28 Sep 00
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