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UK News

Northern Ireland terror suspect wants internet ban lifted so he can watch church

by Premier Journalist

A man facing terror charges in Northern Ireland has asked for a bail condition, preventing him from accessing the internet, to be lifted so that he can watch online church services. 

Robert James Templeton, 34, is accused of 'preparation of terrorist acts' after a number of bomb-making parts and chemicals used in homemade explosives were discovered in his home during a police raid last July. 

Templeton, who has also been accused of storing swords, axes and knives alongside explosives and ammunition in his home, is currently prohibited from having access to any device capable of accessing the internet as part of his bail conditions - the restriction was enforced because the defendant allegedly purchased many of the illegal items online. 

Now, Templeton is applying for the ban to be lifted so he can attend online church services at Green Pastures church, located just outside his Country Antrim town of Ballymena.

Green Pastures, which garnered headlines last year over a scandal involving the manufacturing automotive company Wrightbus, reportedly told police that Templeton and his wife had not attended services nor been on their "books" for some time. 

A defence lawyer told Ballymena Magistrates' Court on Thursday that if the internet ban was lifted, a device belonging to Templeton's wife, Natasha, could be used for the pair to view church services online. Natasha, a classroom assistant, is also co-accused in the case.

District Judge Nigel Broderick asked police whether it would be possible for Templeton to view the church services while a relative monitors his activity and ensures that the device is switched off immediately at the conclusion of the service. Broderick suggested that such an arrangement would ensure the defendant could "maintain his religious beliefs and practice."

A detective constable in the case said he objected to the idea, insisting that the alleged offences were "enabled by the internet."

He said it was "nigh on impossible" to "police" Templeton's online activity by trawling through his browsing history.  

Last year, the court was told that the couple had acquired the materials after hearing a church sermon in which churchgoers were advised to "stock their cupboards" in preparation for a potential "Doomsday scenario."

It was also revealed that Templeton had surrendered his gun licence in 2014 after being diagnosed with schizophrenia - a condition that reportedly lead to him hoarding and impulse-buying.

The court also heard that Templeton harboured a long-standing interest in rockets and pyrotechnics, and that these types of items had "always just been around the house". The couple insisted that they never planned to hurt or attack anyone and their barristers insisted they had no links to paramilitary groups. 

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