Belfast pensioner jailed for collecting information for dissident republican terrorists loses legal battle to overturn her conviction

Court report (Photo: Bruno Vincent:Getty)

Court report (Photo: Bruno Vincent:Getty)

The Court of Appeal rejected claims that notes found in Fionnghuale Mary Teresa Dympha Perry’s home were for legitimate political and journalistic activities. A further challenge to the lawfulness of police searches at the house was also dismissed.

Perry, of Waterville Street in the city, had been attempting to overturn her conviction for having material believed to relate to a “security debrief” by dissident republicans.

Earlier this year the 65-year-old was found guilty of collecting or making a record of information likely to be of use to terrorists following a non-jury trial.

She received a four-year sentence and is not due to be released from prison until January 2026.

Police discovered the documents stored inside a perfume box in a spare bedroom at Perry’s home back in 2018. Seven cigarette papers containing written information about an earlier recovery of weapons and explosives were located.

The notes related to interviews carried out following seizures from Kevin Barry Nolan’s home in Ballymurphy, west Belfast in 2015. Nolan was later convicted and jailed for storing Semtex, guns and bullets.

Prosecutors said the papers in Perry’s house were from a debriefing about the seized weapons to find out what went wrong and how police came to find them.

At the Court of Appeal her lawyers insisted she had a reasonable explanation for the notes based on her role as a journalist writing on political and security issues.

She was described as a commentator and activist, as well as a member of the far-left party Saoradh, engaged in lawful pursuits.

The original notes had been forwarded and then copied into her own hand without any knowledge that they contained information which could be used for terrorist purposes, according to her case.

However, Lord Justice McCloskey rejected claims there was sufficient evidence of a reasonable excuse for having the concealed documents.

Perry’s silence during police interviews undermined her “reasonable excuse” defence, he said.

Her account was further contradicted by the material being assessed as “journalistically useless”.

“The Appellant’s claim that the notes allegedly received by her were never going to be of any journalistic value because of their lack of intelligibility and the anonymity factor was manifestly irreconcilable with her assertions that she nonetheless devoted a full week to the exercise of deciphering them and struggled to comprehend much of their meaning,” the judge said.

In a further ground of challenge, defence lawyers argued evidence obtained from Perry’s home should have been excluded because the police raid was unlawful.

Under the terms of the Justice and Security Act 2007 any officers must be properly authorised before they can enter a house to carry out searches for suspected munitions or wireless apparatus.

The court heard that the inspector who signed the warrant failed to include the names of the officers in advance of the operation.

But Lord Justice McCloskey identified no outright failure to observe the statutory requirements.

“The elements of regulation and control characterised this search process and operation from beginning to end,” he said.

“Furthermore, the appellant is unable to point to any concrete consequence adverse to her, any

deprivation of rights or any tangible prejudice.”

With all legal arguments found to have no merit, the judge confirmed: “This court entertains no reservations about the safety of the Appellant’s conviction.

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