Larne accused had weapons ‘for peace of mind’

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An alleged influential figure among loyalists in a town embroiled in a feud had weapons in his car for “peace of mind”, the High Court heard today.

But a judge was also told police believe Alan Cowan had the butterfly knife and extendable baton to carry out an attack as part of ongoing tensions in Larne.

Details emerged as the 41-year-old was refused permission to return to his family home in the County Antrim town.

Cowan, of Sallagh Park Central, is currently out on bail living in another area.

He was arrested after police seized the baton and five-inch blade from a car registered to him in the early hours of April 22.

Officers had been in the area to carry out a search at his home spotted him and three other men in the vehicle parked nearby, the court heard.

Cowan, who denies any loyalist links, faces two charges of possessing offensive weapons in a public place.

According to a Crown lawyer, the investigation relates to a series of tit-for-tat revenge incidents stemming from an initial assault in the town.

“Police believe the four males (in the car) including the applicant had these weapons for the common purpose of carrying out some form of attack connected to the recent tensions in the Larne area,” she said.

In a prepared statement, Cowan accepted the baton and knife belonged to him, the court was told.

He claimed to have bought them at a market without knowing they were illegal.

Prosecution counsel continued: “He said he had them in his car for peace of mind but had no intention of actually using them.”

Any easing of tensions in the town is connected to Cowan being required to live at another location, it was contended.

“Police believe this applicant is involved and influential within loyalist circles in Larne,” the prosecutor said.

Dennis Boyd, defending, insisted there was no evidence linking Cowan to any feud.

“He doesn’t have any offences suggesting any paramilitary background,” Mr Boyd added.

He argued that his client is currently allowed to travel back to Larne for work, and wants to return home to ease the pressures on his family.

Denying the application to vary bail, however, Madam Justice McBride said: “I’m not satisfied... the condition is no longer required.”