A 14-year-old appeared before a judge at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court. He faced the charge of attempting to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, the arresting officer explained. She, the police officer made the arrest and played the role of an online weapons vendor. The suspect told her that he attempted to purchase the gun for a Jamaican man from Facebook.
The officer explain to the court that she found no Facebook friend that matched the description he gave her. She argued that he intended to intimidate another person with the gun, based on a phrase he gave her at one time. His intention was to “intimidate a third party,” she quoted him as saying. The court denied a normal bail on account of the officers argument that he, at the very least, would destroy evidence. The Judge allowed home arrest, however.
He met the officer from the dark web and attempted to buy live ammunition and an activated PPSh43 sub-machine gun. But he argued that the Jamaican friend of his only wanted a deactivated firearm. The so-called Jamaican friend not only wanted a deactivated firearm, but also wanted blank ammunition, according to his testimony.
A BBC UK editor from Belfast tweeted “A police officer said the boy had attempted to buy the items via the dark web & was arrested as part of a ‘pro active’ policing operation.” We have yet to hear of the pro-active weapons operation, but since exist occur worldwide, a Northern Ireland operation should be of no surprise. Weapons and the Dark web rarely match.
According to the police officer, also known to the 14-year-old as a dark web vendor, the boy skipped school around lunch time. He wanted, specifically a Russian submachine gun. The PSNI operative found the story somewhat unlikely. During the hearing, she said, “the account provided was somewhat unbelievable. He provided an account that he was purchasing a gun for a male that was a Jamaican national living in Northern Ireland who he was friendly with on Facebook.”
Upon further investigation, none of his Facebook friends matched the profile of the man in question. After gathering what evidence she could, which the defense claimed was very little, she agreed upon a price for the weapon and ammunition. He wanted both for £150 ($185). They arraigned a place and time where the meeting later transpired. Once the young man skipped school and arrived at the location he agreed upon, the officer arrested him and charged him with attempting to possess a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.
The defense argued, in court on April 8, that the officer’s case relied on “guesswork.” No matching profile for a Facebook friend proved nothing, they explained. Officers only collected enough evidence that proved the 14-year-old tried to purchase a firearm at the Riverside Retail Park in Coleraine. While waiting for the sentencing hearing, if the boy accesses any electronic devices, he could spend months in a juvenile detention center, the overseeing Judge said.
The next court date is scheduled for April 25.