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David Black PSNI
Dissident Republicans

Man to be extradited in connection with murder of prison officer David Black

Black was shot dead on the M1 motorway by dissident republicans as he drove to work in Maghaberry Prison in 2012.

THE HIGH COURT has ordered the extradition of a man to Northern Ireland in connection with the alleged murder of prison officer David Black.

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, 40, with an address at Glenties Road, Belfast, was arrested in Donegal on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by authorities in Northern Ireland earlier this year.

He is wanted to face allegations that he aided and abetted the murder of Black on 1 November 2012, and was in possession of an article suspected of being for the commission of murder.

Black, a 52-year-old father of two, was shot dead on the M1 motorway by dissident republicans as he drove to work in Maghaberry Prison in Lisburn.

McLaughlin is also charged with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism and of being a member of a proscribed organisation.

His barrister, David Leonard BL, opposed surrender on grounds that McLaughlin believed he would be exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment if he was surrendered to Northern Ireland. Leonard said full body searches were carried out in Maghaberry Prison with unwarranted force and McLaughlin would be subjected to a large number of forced body searches during his trial.

In a written judgment last month, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly sought further information from Northern Irish authorities questioning the necessity for full-body searches in light of improvements in technology, such as was operated in Portlaoise Prison.

Ordering McLaughlin’s surrender this evening, Ms Justice Donnelly said further information was obtained from Northern Irish authorities that showed, contrary to evidence before a Joint Oireachtas Committee, there was a necessity to carry out full body searches on the specific occasions of entry and exit to Maghaberry Prison.

Full body searches

In a five-page reply to the judge’s request for further information, the head of the Northern Irish Prison Service set out the “severe threat” to their staff from dissident republicans. In the last five years, two prison officer have been murdered, Ms Justice Donnelly noted.

She said the head of the Northern Irish authorities took issue with the term “strip search”. They said “full body” searching was the most effective method available to prevent illicit items being brought into prison while preserving the dignity of prisoners as far as was practicable.

Northern Irish authorities stated that prisoners were not required to completely strip naked or squat during such searches. They referred to full body searches being carried out internationally and stated that they were European Court of Human Rights compliant.

The authorities went on to say they keep procedures under constant review and remain open to the possibility of adopting or deploying search methods which could prove as effective. However, to date, no available technology has proven to offer the same level of assurance, despite two tests on a range of available technologies in 2012 and 2015, Northern Irish authorities stated.

Ms Justice Donnelly said the fact that authorities did not provide a detailed account of the testing was not a basis for rejecting the assessment. She said the court had to assess the issue of necessity in the context of Northern Ireland. The fact that this jurisdiction had a “different standard of effectiveness” has to be viewed against what the High Court was told about the risk in Northern Ireland.

She said the Northern Ireland Prison Service explained how they operated in a very specific high risk environment, that they were conscious of the sensitivities around the issue of full body searches and the need to keep the requirements for this type of search under review.

Ms Justice Donnelly said the reply received from the Northern Irish Prison Service demonstrated that technology, as it existed at the present time, was limited in the context of security within the Northern Irish prison system and that full body searches were necessary on entering and exiting Maghaberry Prison.

She said Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights or the related constitutional provisions were not contravened. On that basis, she rejected McLaughlin’s point of objection and accordingly ordered his surrender. In an affidavit, Maureen O’Sullivan TD told the court that she had made a number of visits to Maghaberry Prison between 2010 and 2017 and was very concerned about the conditions there.

Comments are closed due to ongoing legal proceedings. 

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Ruaidhrí Giblin