Derry Man appears in court on firearms and explosives charges

There was a heavy security presence both inside and outside Derry Courthouse today as a 20-year-old man appeared on gun and explosive charges.
Nathan Hastings of 89, Stradowen Drive in the Strathfoyle area of the city was charged with possessing items of use to terrorists, he was also charged with possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life.
He faced a further charge of possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life all of the charges were said to have occurred on April 12.
Hastings refused to acknowledge the court when he was asked to confirm his identity or when the charges were put to him.
A detective Constable Funston told the court that two cars were stopped by police shortly after 8 p.m. on the Northland Road.
One of them, a red Citroen, was being driven by Hastings.
A search of that vehicle revealed gins, assorted ammunition and an improvised explosive device in a plastic bag in the front passenger footwell.
The police officer said that a British army technical officer confirmed that the device was a viable one.
Detective constable Funston said that during extensive interviews Hastings refused to give any account of how the stuff came to be in a car he was driving.
She said the accused was not the registered owner of the car and that the same vehicle had been stopped earlier on Friday but nothing found in it.
The court heard that forensic tests had revealed that at least one of the handguns found was genuine while tests remained outstanding on the others.
The police officer said Hastings had no record but added that this was 'a common tactic employed by dissident republican groups to recruit individuals with no record.'
Opposing bail the officer said; "We believe Hastings is an active and prominent member of a dissident republican group who are intent on carrying on their murderous, cowardly campaign targeting police and prison officers."
She added: "He is known to police as a public face of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and he has attended protests in connection with that grouping."
The police officer told the court: "We have serious concerns that he will not answer bail or appear for trial if released."
Defence solicitor Mr. Paddy MacDermott asked the officer was there any forensic link between Hastings and the items in the car and she said that tests were no completed yet.
District Judge Barney McElholm said: " Over a two day period Hastings had refused to give any account as to how these items came to be in a car he was driving.
"My first duty is to protect the public from harm and it s not in the public interest to release this man."
Bail was refused and Hastings was remanded in custody to appear again on May 9th.
A small crowd of supporters were in court for Hastings' appearance but there were no incidents.