Prominent Lisburn loyalist Mark Harbinson has been remanded in custody charged with having a semi-automatic pistol, bullets and a silencer.
At Lisburn Magistrates’ Court on Saturday, convicted sex offender Harbinson (48) from Sheepwalk Road, was accused of having a Makarov 9mm pistol, 28 rounds of suitable ammunition and a silencer, with intent to endanger life “on a date unknown prior to December 21 2015”.
A detective sergeant said he believed he could connect Harbinson to the offences and that police were objecting to bail amid fears he posed a serious flight risk.
Acting on information, he said, police searched Harbinson’s home under the Terrorism Act on December 21 last year, discovering the disassembled weapon, bullets and working silencer hidden in a biscuit tin in an outbuilding.
He told the court Harbinson was absent during the search but his father and uncle, who were present at the farm, told Harbinson police were searching his home, leading him to flee, first to the Republic of Ireland and then to Cumbria.
Initially, there had been a “tentative arrangement” for Harbinson to hand himself in the following day but he failed to appear at Musgrave Street station in Belfast.
The officer told the court colleagues spotted Harbinson’s Vauxhall Vectra on the motorway but it sped off when the driver spotted police.
“The next day it would appear that Mr Harbinson, assisted by someone else, was able to make his way to The Outlet centre in Banbridge and from there to the Republic of Ireland,” claimed the officer, “until he took a ferry from Dublin to Holyhead before travelling to an address in Cumbria.”
The officer said the PSNI and Cumbria police raided that address at 6am on New Year’s Eve but that “it would appear that something had disturbed him at that place and he again made off from police”.
A search of a mobile home at that property uncovered Harbinson’s passport, a bag of clothes, £3,000 -£5,000 in Bank of England £20 notes and his travel itinerary from Dublin to Cumbria.
The court heard a police negotiator had been speaking by phone to Harbinson, who by that time was some 25 miles away, leading to the defendant eventually handing himself in.
The officer contended, however, that Harbinson only did so “when he realised he had no shoes, no clothes, limited funds and no passport”.
It was said that during police interview Harbinson claimed he had not been driving his car when it was spotted on the motorway and that he “collected” Bank of England notes as a matter of habit.
The officer told the court police objected to bail because they feared Harbinson “would not abide by any conditions and would likely flee the country,” adding that by fleeing to Cumbria he had breached the terms of a court-imposed Sexual Offences Prevention Order put in place after his conviction of engaging in sexual activity with a girl aged between 13 and 16-years-old, and he was on licence until October this year as a result of that conviction. Under cross-examination by defence barrister Craig Patton, the officer confirmed that while DNA and fingerprints testing had yet to be conducted, the gun was a working firearm and the silencer also functioned.
He said Harbinson claimed during questioning never to have seen or touched the biscuit tin where the gun and ammunition were found, but “he could not explain how his thumb print was on the inside of the box”.
Mr Patton, meanwhile, said Harbinson had held a barbecue in the summer which had been attended by around 100 people, claiming that “he has no control of where they go when they are there”, and further submitting that it was of no great surprise that he had easy access to clothes, money and his passport as “it is fairly public knowledge that he would have a lot of enemies”.
ConcedingHarbinson faced “an extremely serious charge” and that fleeing was “stupidity in its highest form,” Mr Patton submitted he could be released on bail, subject to the most stringent conditions.
Refusing bail, however, District Judge Amanda Henderson said she had “real concerns” that Harbinson would again flee the jurisdiction given that he had “immediate access to a passport, stash of clothing and a large sum of money” and had “immediately went on the run” when he discovered that police were searching his home.
Harbinson was remanded into custody to appear again on January 25 via video link.