Between December 2016 and January 2017, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) arrested six men (two cases) in an operation against gangland activity “fueled by the darknet.” Darren Bennett was one of the men law enforcement investigated for illegal firearm transactions. And because of the implications associated with illegal firearm deals, a High Court judge ruled that Bennett must remain in custody to keep the Carrickfergus gang feuds from reigniting.
Darren Bennett, prosecutors claimed, attempted to purchase a Glock pistol and ammunition from an entity on the darknet. They explained that the 22-year-old arranged for a transaction in Belfast through “underground sites accessible by only the darknet.” Previously, Bennett expected a release, but the Court clearly planned otherwise.
What he did not realize, though, was that the firearms dealers were actually PSNI officers. The ultimate decision between Bennett and the undercover officer(s) only damned him even further. He arranged for the purchase of two Glocks and and matching ammunition. The agreed upon purchase price, or said, was around $3,700 or £2,900. Justice Horner, the judge who denied man bail, believed the defendant intended the weapons to be used in the ongoing Carrickfergus gang wars.
Crown lawyer Fiona O’Kane said: “It’s a very serious, high-level investigation.” The feud caused high levels of violence over the past few months. Many darknet-linked arrests also involved firearms—most of which prosecutors believed were meant for the gangland war. In addition to his believed contribution to violence in Ireland, Bennett refused to give investigators the passwords needed to access his computers.
Mr. Farrell, Bennett’s defense counsel, added that “the Carrickfergus feud hasn’t been on the news or bubbling in terms of events every day.” And he further argued for his client’s release when he told the court that Bennett was advised to hand his passwords over. No mention was made of Bennett’s plans—whether or not he actually would provide the passwords to law enforcement.
Not only has the man been charged with attempted possession of a firearm, prosecutors also charged him with a count of attempted possession of cocaine and MDMA with intent to supply. The PSNI took down several drug trafficking rings around the time of Bennett’s arrest.
Two days after the undercover officers and Bennett reached an agreement over the pair of Glocks, law enforcement arrested him. The court kept him in custody ever since and additionally refuted the suggestion of any excessive delay in the case.
“That’s one of the reasons to be careful about releasing somebody – I wouldn’t want it reactivated,” Justice Horner explained.