A former British soldier, who lived a double life as a bomb maker for dissident republicans, has been sentenced to 18 years in jail.

Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell stashed anti-personnel mines, mortars, ammunition and 14 pipe bombs - four of which were later used - in 43 purpose-built hides at eight locations in Northern Ireland and England.

Bomb-making materials were found in barrels and buckets buried in the ground as well as an adapted PSNI pass card, a PSNI uniform and a police stab-proof vest.

The 31-year-old is originally from Larne in Co Antrim and was with 40 Commando based at Norton Manor Camp in Taunton, Somerset, at the time of the offences.

He pleaded guilty to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August last year, possessing images of bank cards for fraud and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney said Maxwell used his military know-how to accumulate and construct his devices.

He described the infiltration of the military by a republican terrorist as "very unusual" and "certainly the first case of its kind in recent years".

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Police also fear weapons he constructed may still be in circulation, ready for deployment by dissident republicans, with some of his stash potentially able to make an explosive larger than the 1987 Enniskillen bomb.

Sentencing, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "I'm sure that you were and will remain motivated by dissident republican sympathies and a hostility to the UK.

"There was sophisticated offending on a substantial scale which took place over a period of more than five years.

"There was clearly the potential for the deployment of many bombs of varying types and sizes against multiple targets, with the ultimate intent of those planting the devices being to kill.

"There was considerable planning, including attack planning, research, and the acquiring of large amounts of materials including police items for use in disguise.

"You were strongly committed to the cause."

Maxwell was handed an 18-year jail term with another five years on licence.

He was given an 18-month sentence for possessing cannabis with a street value of £8,100, and two years for fraud. Both sentences will run concurrently.

The Old Bailey heard that the father-of-one researched targets and discussed plans to attack police stations and officers.

His plot, however, was foiled when members of the public stumbled across his weapons hides by chance.

DNA evidence found on parts of the haul led them to Maxwell, who was on the national database due to his alleged involvement in an unrelated assault case.