“At the time Sinn Féin condemned the arrest and subsequent charges and pointed to a political motivation behind the entire episode…”

The BBC reports that the long running saga of the charges against “prominent Co Tyrone republican” Brian Arthurs, who was named in this 2005 Times report as a member of the PIRA army council, and his wife, Paula Anne, has ended with guilty pleas to “three charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception and two counts of possessing £31,718 worth of criminal property”.

The couple from Finulagh Road, Castlecaulfield, had been due to stand trial at Belfast Crown Court.

But they changed their plea on Wednesday.

Subsequently, further charges of obtaining services by deception and possessing and converting criminal property were left on the books.

Arthurs admitted making three fraudulent mortgage applications totalling £345,250 from the Bank of Ireland, Birmingham Midshires and The Mortgage Business PLC.

The particulars of the case suggest he inflated his income by £34,500, claiming he had another job and had no other debts.

His wife told the Bank of Ireland that she was a hair salon manageress earning £18,500. The single charge against her dates back 16 years.

She admitted obtaining a money transfer by deception, namely a £52,000 mortgage from the Bank of Ireland between 3 November 1996 and 10 January 1997.

The trial had been due to be heard by a non-jury Diplock court. The couple’s appeal against this was unsuccessful.

Arthurs was once a member of Sinn Féin and acted as an election agent on behalf on Michelle Gildernew.

In 1995, he was sentenced to 25 years in jail for possessing explosives. He was later released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

When Arthurs was arrested in May 2007, Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey complained to the  British Government about “the nature of [the] arrest operation”.

His May 2007 bail hearing was attended by Sinn Féin MLA Francie Molloy – now the party’s candidate to replace Martin McGuinness as Mid Ulster MP – who claimed at the time that the charges were part of “a politically driven vendetta against a number of republicans in the East Tyrone area.” 

At that hearing Brian Arthurs’ solicitor stated

…my client takes great exception to the allegation made that he is involved in a criminal gang.”

“Mr Arthurs is an honest, hard-working man, and I am in possession of references provided by MLAs supporting his efforts made in the peace process and his role in actively involving police in his community. This is what he gets in return.”

Fifteen months later, as noted on Slugger

Mr Justice John Meehan refused prosecution requests for a further adjournment in the case and acquitted Arthurs on all counts, stating that despite 15 months having passed, it had failed to provide any evidence to the court.

That prompted the following statement from Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, then-MP, MLA, NI deputy First Minister and now Crown Steward and Bailiff for the Manor of Northstead.

“Last year Brian Arthurs home was raided and he was arrested by the PSNI. After this a number of charges were put to Brian and significant media briefing followed. At the time Sinn Féin condemned the arrest and subsequent charges and pointed to a political motivation behind the entire episode.

“At the time we were criticised for our response to this operation by unionist parties. Our stance has today been vindicated and those within unionism and within sections of the media who attempted to try and convict Brian Arthurs without so much as a shred of evidence have now been exposed.

But it didn’t end there, and in December 2009 the BBC were reporting that Arthurs had “launched a legal action against his forthcoming trial being heard without a jury.”

Brian Arthurs, 45, of Finulagh Road, Castlecaulfield, Dungannon, is charged with deception and possession of criminal property. The Director of Public Prosecutions has issued a certificate for the trial to take place in front of a judge alone. Mr Arthurs’ barrister argued his client had “a fundamental right to trial by one’s peers.”

The legal action began in May 2010, with Arthurs reportedly represented by London barrister Raza Hussain QC, from Cherie Booth’s Matrix chambers.  And that legal challenge was subsequently rejected in June of that year.

Arthurs told the Sunday Tribune in October 2010 that he had left Sinn Féin at some point in 2008.

Arthurs and [Peter] McCaughey said that, despite long-standing reservations about the direction of Sinn Féin’s strategy, they and others had remained loyal to the leadership because they didn’t want to split the movement.

“Two years ago, it reached the point that we couldn’t stay,” McCaughey said.  “We were told at a meeting in Tyrone that Sinn Féin’s support for the PSNI wasn’t just a written policy, we had to implement the strategy in full or leave.  So we left.”

Although it was reported that Arthurs’ legal challenge to a non-jury trial was due to go to the UK Supreme Court I can’t find a reference to an outcome at that level.

Which brings us back to today, and Brian Arthurs pleading “guilty to three charges of obtaining a money transfer by deception and two counts of possessing £31,718 worth of criminal property.”

[Is he still a “good republican” too? – Ed]  Not any more…