HMA v Antoin Duffy, Martin Hughes, Pauls Sands, Craig Convery and Gordon Brown

At the High Court in Glasgow on 31 August 2015, Lady Scott sentenced Antoin Duffy, Martin Hughes and Pauls Sands after they were convicted of conspiracy to murder John Adair and Sam McCrory. Duffy and Hughes were also convicted of terrorism-related offences in furtherance of that conspiracy. She also sentenced Craig Convery and Gordon Brown after they were convicted of being involved in serious organised crime.

On sentencing, Lady Scott made the following statement in court:

“I am first going explain the reasons for the sentences I am going to impose and then pronounce sentence in respect of each accused.

Charge 1: Antoin Duffy

Your conviction in charge 1 of a contravention of s5(1)(a) of the Terrorism Act 2006 demonstrates that the jury were satisfied that you intended to commit an act of terrorism. That intention is at the heart of this offence.  It is irrelevant for conviction whether this specific intention relates to a specific act or acts of terrorism or acts of terrorism generally. The evidence here was that you held a specific intention to commit general acts of terrorism for the purpose, as you saw it, of advancing the cause of dissident Irish republicanism.

There is considerable overlap between the evidence of your intention and the conduct you engaged in to give effect to that intention, with the evidence of your conspiring to murder John Adair and Samuel McCrory and acts you committed in furtherance of that conspiracy in charge 3. I have taken account of that overlap in sentencing you on this charge and I have restricted the sentence on this charge to reflect this overlap.

Whilst the preparatory conduct you engaged in had little practical effect, the evidence suggested a clear determination on your part to give effect to your intention to commit acts of terrorism. That intention is seen in the evidence of statements you made which were recorded on audio surveillance.

In their verdict the jury made deletions to the conduct engaged in and I take this into account. The jury found that the preparatory conduct consisted of:

(1) Under paragraph (a) meetings, conversations and correspondence, telephone calls and texts – and this would include both discussions of your intention to commit general acts of terrorism, as well as those related to the other conduct in the libel. 

(2) Under paragraph (c) the recruitment of others – which included Mr McVeigh and the second accused. 

(3) Under paragraph (d) the attempts to procure an assault rifle. The evidence of your persistent attempts to procure an assault rifle was not only for its potential use in shooting Mr Adair or Mr McCrory, but also for potential use in further unspecified acts of terrorism – as evidenced for example in your conversations with the second accused. 

(4) In respect of paragraph (f) I consider this is overlaps entirely with your acts in furthering the conspiracy in charge 3. 

(5) Finally in paragraph (i) discussing with your partner and the second accused the tactics to use if arrested, which is evidence I do not attach great weight to, given the limited terms of the discussions involved.

In assessing the seriousness of the preparatory conduct in this charge I have regard to the following factors

  1. In considering the evidence where you engaged in conversations or statements of your intention to generally commit terrorist acts, I have sought to make allowances for your tendency for boasting or to talk ‘big’.  At the same time as the verdict shows, your stated intentions and discussions were serious, even if, in practical terms nothing was really achieved. That lack of practical effect was not for want of intention to carry out terrorist acts and in respect of procurement of the assault rifle, not for the want of trying.
  2. The persistence of your engagement in such conduct over a period of time.
  3. The fact that your preparation involved the potential use of firearms and your statements of intent implied the use of serious violence – albeit explosives were deleted by the jury.

Mr Duffy I have no doubt you were the instigator and driving force in the commission of this offence and your sentence will reflect that.

Charge 2: Martin Hughes

Mr Hughes, You have been convicted of engagement in preparatory conduct by way of assistance to Mr Duffy, to give effect to the intention to commit an act or acts of terrorism – in contravention of s5(1)(b) of the Terrorism Act 2006. You knew well the intention of Mr Duffy and in convicting you, the jury were satisfied you subscribed to that intention in assisting him.

I am satisfied that in so doing, your engagement in such conduct came about as a result of the influence of Mr Duffy. That influence was apparent in the evidence and your brother testified to it. I formed the impression from the evidence that you would do whatever you were asked to, by the first accused. 

In addition, in your case, the scope of the libel was restricted by the Crown and the jury made significant deletions. Having regard to these deletions, I consider that apart from your encouragement in discussions with him, the only practical conduct you engaged in here was following the instructions of Mr Duffy to secure firearms.

Finally, as with charge 1, I have taken into account the overlap in the evidence of preparatory conduct and the acts in furtherance of the conspiracy in charge 3 and in so doing I have restricted your sentence on this charge.

Charge 3: Conspiracy to murder Samuel McCrory and John Adair

Mr Duffy, Mr Hughes and Mr Sands you have all been convicted of a conspiracy to murder two men - Mr John Adair and Mr Samuel McCrory.

The offence of this conspiracy is made and completed by the agreement to murder the proposed victims. The fact that the jury have made deletions to the libel in respect of the acts involved in furtherance of that conspiracy, notably those relating to Mr Adair, does not detract from their decision as to your culpability in respect of conspiring to murder him. The evidence implied Mr McCrory was intended to be your first victim and the evidence revealed the steps taken to follow through the conspiracy in respect of murdering him.

In considering sentence for this charge, I have in particular had regard to the following factors:

  1. This was a conspiracy to murder to two men. It seems clear you callously intended to shoot or execute your intended victim, after confronting him by surprise.
  2. 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.
  3. The evidence of your reconnaissance trip to Ayr captured the murderous nature of your plan and showed that the furtherance of your conspiracy was well advanced. You had identified your targets and who was to be first, you were engaged in the details regarding Mr McCrory of when and how you would shoot him, identifying the best location, the procurement and storage of cars and firearms, the number of weapons involved and the getaway routes.
  4. The audio recording of the reconnaissance trip also revealed that all of you were excited participants in this plot and the actions of all of you in following through the plot after demonstrated the seriousness of your intentions. For example you Mr Duffy issued instructions to Mr Hughes to take steps to secure the assault rifle to be used and you Mr Hughes took those steps. Whilst you, Mr Sands, following this trip made enquiries to source firearms and a car and you made contact with Mr McCrory on Facebook to gain more information about him.

Again there is no doubt that you Mr Duffy were the instigator and driving force behind this conspiracy. And again Mr Hughes I am satisfied that you simply went along with Mr Duffy’s instructions.

Mr Sands you appear to have joined this conspiracy at a later stage but clearly before the trip to Ayr. I am satisfied you played a significant role in supplying detailed information of the movements of Mr McCrory as well as you apparent willingness to take part in the execution of the plot.

Mitigation - Charges 1, 2 and 3

Antoin Duffy, I take into account that at the time of these offences and now, you struggle with an alcohol misuse disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive disorder. They do not however in my view significantly bear upon your culpability or the risk of harm that you present to the public.

As I have indicated 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.

You planned for and engaged in the commission of these offences whilst still serving a sentence in prison for firearms convictions from the High Court. The CJSW report assessment is that you pose a high and imminent risk of serious harm or death to the public. I accept that assessment and I consider it is necessary in your case to impose an extended sentence upon you.

An extended sentence consists of the appropriate term of imprisonment and an extension period whereby your release on licence is extended for that period. The effect is that, if, during that period, if you breach the conditions of your licence, your licence may be revoked and you may be recalled to prison by the Scottish Ministers, with or without consultation with the Parole Board.

I take into account in the sentence I impose the 234 days you spent on remand from 20th December 2012 to 11th August 2014.

Martin Hughes, you appear before me on very serious charges as a 36-year-old man without any prior offending or history of violence. You have a stable background and you have been in steady employment since you were a boy.

The only explanation I can identify for your involvement in this very serious course of conduct is the influence Mr Duffy has wielded over you.

I am satisfied that it is not necessary to impose an extended sentence here. I take into account the 163 days you spent in custody in respect of this matter.

Paul Sands, your motivation in getting involved this murderous conspiracy is unclear. You do not hold any political allegiance. You do however have a background of violent offending albeit mostly at a minor level. You have an extensive criminal record which includes numerous convictions of assault and a firearms conviction at summary level, a solemn conviction for being concerned in the supply of cocaine and most notably a conviction in 2007 for assault to severe injury, permanent impairment and disfigurement and to the danger of life, from the High Court and for which you received an extended sentence. During the furtherance of this conspiracy you were still serving a prison sentence.

You are assessed as presenting a high risk of causing serious harm to the public. I am satisfied by the nature of this offence and your record that this assessment is correct. Accordingly, I am going to impose an extended sentence on you.

As you know extended sentence consists of the appropriate term of imprisonment and an extension period whereby your release on licence is extended for that period. The effect is that, if, during that period, if you breach the conditions of your licence, your licence may be revoked and you may be recalled to prison by the Scottish Ministers, with or without consultation with the Parole Board.

Charge 5 – Craig Convery: Directing serious organised crime

Mr Convery you have been convicted by the jury of the offence of direction serious organised crime in contravention of S30(1) of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. In that over a period of about seven months you were directing others in the acquisition, possession, storage and transportation of heroin and cocaine and associated adulterants in contravention of s4(3)(b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

The nature of this offence in directing others, necessarily infers that you operated at a senior level within serious organised crime and this requires a substantial prison sentence.

The evidence of one witness acting under your instructions, Mr Donnell, was involved in what can only be described as a major enterprise of the supply of substantial quantities of class A drugs. Another such witness Mr Sneddon was found in the possession of class A drugs which were valued at sum in excess of £1 million.

Charge 8 – Contravention of section 329(1)(c ) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002

The evidence of this charge related to the one event of being handed over a sum of money which the jury were satisfied came from the drugs supply. In view of the absence of your record and the substantial sentence I must impose in respect of charge5, I propose to simply admonish you of this charge.


On the other hand you appear here as a first offender. You have a supportive extended family and you have been a hard-working man all your life and latterly you had been running your own business. I have no doubt any prison sentence will have a devastating effect upon you. I take account in imposing that sentence that you have spent 222 days, on remand, in respect of this charge.

Charge 6 – Gordon Brown: Involvement in serious organised crime

You have been convicted of being involved in serious organised crime assisting Mr Convery which consisted of participating in meetings, delivering messages, making calls and texts to enable others to commit serious offences involving the supply of class A drugs. In view of the deletions to the libel in respect of Mr Convery, I am going to approach sentencing you by only having regard to your assistance in respect of that drugs supply.

As I have indicated in respect of charge 5 the evidence revealed a major enterprise of the supply of class A drugs and your participation, albeit by way of assistance is serious and requires a substantial sentence of imprisonment.  


You appear on this charge as a man with only a minor record. You have a stable and supportive family with young children and a baby due. Despite a difficult background you had a steady employment since you were a boy and at the time of this offence you had reached a management position and I heard evidence from your boss of how well thought of you were and that you had a bright future. You have thrown away that future by your involvement in this charge. I take into account that you have spent 140 days on remand, in respect of this charge.


Antoin Duffy, on charge 1 I sentence you on charge 1 to 5 years imprisonment backdated to 30th March 2015. On charge 3, I sentence to a total sentence of 15 years, consisting of 12 years imprisonment and an extended period on licence for a period three years. Your sentence on charge 3 will run consecutive to that imposed on charge 1 making an overall sentence of 20 years.

Martin Hughes, I sentence you on charge 2 to 3 years imprisonment and on charge 3 to eight years imprisonment which sentence will run consecutively to the sentence imposed on charge 2 making an overall sentence of 11 years imprisonment backdated to 20th July 2015

Paul Sands, I sentence you on charge 3 to an extended sentence of 13 years consisting of a period in custody of 10 years imprisonment and an extension period on licence of three years. This sentence will be backdated to run from 27th May 2015

Craig Convery, I sentence you on charge 5 to nine years imprisonment which takes account of your period on remand and will be backdated to 20th July 2015. On charge 8 you are admonished.

Gordon Brown, I sentence you to six years imprisonment which takes into account the time spent on remand and will be backdated to 20th July 2015.”