Prosecutors have dropped a case against a man accused of possessing the largest haul of Semtex recovered in Northern Ireland in the past decade.

Thomas Hughes, from north Belfast, had been charged with having 2.5kg of the plastic explosive with intent to endanger life.

The 47-year-old was arrested after Semtex was found inside a flat in the New Lodge area last May.

Mr Hughes, who is originally from Scotland, was not in the property when police carried out the raid. He vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Yesterday the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) announced it had withdrawn the charge.

The decision, confirmed at Belfast Magistrates Court, followed a review of all available forensic evidence in the case.

Following confirmation of the prosecution position, District Judge Fiona Bagnall ordered the charge against Mr Hughes to be withdrawn. With criminal proceedings at an end, his solicitor insisted that he should never have been before the courts.

Michael Madden said: “Today’s hearing marks the culmination of a sustained campaign of representations at remand hearings for the Public Prosecution Service and the PSNI to serve evidence alleged to connect our client to the high explosives haul.

“This was a prosecution against Mr Hughes that should never have been brought.

“We made strenuous objections both in Antrim Serious Crime Suite and at our client’s first remand hearing as to the sufficiency and strength of the evidence said to properly ground this charge.”

Mr Madden added: “We are pleased that Mr Hughes can now look forward to putting this traumatic experience behind him and to getting back to his normal life.”

Mr Hughes was previously described as being from a republican background and also a strong supporter of the peace process.

But he is vehemently opposed to any dissident activity, it was stressed.

“The PPS confirmed that a charge against an individual for possession of explosives with intent to endanger life, which related to a find of 2.5kg of explosives at a flat in Belfast, has been withdrawn,” a spokesman said.

“All of the evidence obtained in the course of the police investigation, including the forensic evidence, was carefully considered and it was concluded that there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction and that therefore the test for prosecution was not met.” The PSNI declined to comment.

Belfast Telegraph