TWO MEN jailed for a parcel bomb plot against Celtic manager Neil Lennon and high-profile supporters of the club have started appeals against their conviction.
Trevor Muirhead, 44, of Kilwinning, and Neil McKenzie, 43, of Saltcoats, both North Ayrshire, were each given five-year prison terms for sending devices in the post to Mr Lennon, and to former MSP Trish Godman and the late QC, Paul McBride. Another package had been destined for Cairde na hEireann (Friends of Ireland) in Glasgow.
The two men stood trial earlier this year at the High Court in Glasgow on a charge of conspiring to murder their targets by sending devices they believed were capable of exploding and causing injury. However, the judge, Lord Turnbull, held there was insufficient evidence for that allegation and it was deleted from the indictment. Both accused were found guilty of the reduced charge of conspiracy to assault.
Gordon Jackson, QC, for Muirhead, told the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh it had been established that none of the devices was capable of exploding beyond “a half pop” or causing damage.
He said the packages were “very unpleasant hoax parcels” and in no way a trivial matter. However, the Crown had not charged the men with sending hoax parcels, and for the charge they faced, the jury had to be satisfied that the pair “believed they were sending devices capable of exploding and doing damage...with the intention of that result happening.”
Mr Jackson argued that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to be satisfied, and even if there was technically enough evidence, no reasonable jury could have reached such a conclusion.
“That is the nub of the matter,” he said.
Donald Findlay, QC, for McKenzie, argued: “This is a conviction which cannot be allowed to stand as being one that a jury could have brought back. The tenor of my approach (to the jury at the trial) was ‘You are not going to like it because you are going to think these are people who did something wrong, but you have to accept they believed they were sending bombs and the evidence shows they were not bombs.’ “
The advocate-depute, Andrew Miller, said the Crown had not attempted to prove the packages were viable explosive devices.
“The Crown’s case was that they believed they had constructed and were sending explosive devices. The issue relates to inferences the jury were entitled to draw from evidence as to their state of mind when they constructed and posted these packages,” he added.
Mr Miller submitted that there were various strands of evidence to support the Crown’s contention, such as warnings given by both men to a relative of Muirhead that there might be a bang and that, on leaving his flat, he should not turn left in the direction of a post box, into which a package had been posted.
The hearing continues.