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31 August 2015, 18:29
Three men who plotted to murder former loyalist leader Johnny "Mad Dog'' Adair in Scotland have been jailed.
Anton Duffy, 39, Martin Hughes, 36, and Paul Sands, 32, were convicted in July of conspiring to kill former Ulster Defence Association (UDA) chief Adair and his right-hand man, Sam McCrory.
Following a nine-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow, Duffy and Hughes were also convicted of terrorism charges.
Duffy - the "instigator and driving force'' behind the plot - was jailed for 17 years when he returned to the court for sentencing. He will also be supervised for a further three years following his release, under the terms of an extended sentence imposed by judge Lady Scott.
Hughes was sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment, while Sands given an extended sentence, involving 10 years behind bars and supervision for a further three years after release.
Two other men found guilty of organised crime charges were also jailed at the same hearing.
Craig Convery, 37, was locked up for nine years while his associate, Gordon Brown, 30, was given a six-year jail term.
Duffy, Sands and Hughes were arrested in 2013 after two major Police Scotland investigations into terrorism and organised crime.
Duffy, from Donegal, was the ringleader of an unaffiliated active service unit inspired by dissident republicanism and planned to carry out the double murder with Sands and Hughes while on home leave from prison, according to police.
Operation Hairsplitter was set up late in September 2012 to investigate an attempt to procure firearms, including an AK47, by the gang led by Duffy.
It was feared that if the murders had been carried out there would have been huge ramifications on both sides of the Irish Sea.
MI5 and Police Scotland carried out investigations throughout 2013, including using covert listening devices, to gather information.
Duffy, Sands and Hughes were arrested in October 2013, while Convery and Brown were held three months later.
Adair was a leading figure in the UDA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and moved to Scotland after being released from prison as part of the Good Friday Agreement.
Speaking outside court, Adair said the convicted men "deserved every minute'' of the sentences they were given
"The severity of the sentence reflects the seriousness of the charges and I'm just delighted that justice has been done today,'' he said.
Lady Scott said the evidence implied that Mr McCrory was intended to be the first victim.
Addressing all three men involved in the plot to kill, she said: "This was a conspiracy to murder two men. It seems clear you callously intended to shoot or execute your intended victim, after confronting him by surprise.
"This murderous conspiracy was long thought of and discussed by Mr Duffy whilst in prison and on leave and it involved considerable planning by all involved.''
Turning to Duffy, she said: "There is no doubt that you were the instigator and driving force behind this conspiracy.''
She went on: "I am satisfied that your intention to commit acts of terrorism was a determined one, motivated by strongly held political views and a degree of personal ambition. You conspired to murder two men in a callous way.''
She added that Duffy - assessed as posing a high and imminent risk of serious harm or death to the public - had planned for and engaged in the commission of the offences while still serving a prison sentence for firearms convictions.
Defence counsel Derek Ogg QC told the court that Duffy had struggled with a combination of mental health disorders, including severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and general anxiety disorder.
Lady Scott said they did not, however, have a significant bearing on Duffy's culpability or the risk of harm that he poses to the public.
Of Hughes, she said he "simply went along with Mr Duffy's instructions''.
Hughes' lawyer, Gordon Jackson QC, told the court he had been "taken along into something'' and was "not a mover by any stretch of the imagination''.
Duffy was well-known to the authorities on both sides of the Irish Sea. He is understood to have connections to Irish Republican terrorist groups but was not affiliated to any of the groups in particular at the time.
Detective Chief Superintendent John Cuddihy, of Police Scotland, said: "Make no mistake - the intent of those who have been sentenced today was to carry out a murderous terrorist attack on the streets of Scotland.
"There is no doubt Police Scotland officers have saved the lives of two men and prevented significant negative community impact across Scotland and further afield.''
Praising all those involved in bringing the case to court, he added: "Today's verdict shows that justice is not simply a concept, it is a reality.''