Judge wants more information on strip searching in Damian McLaughlin extradition case
A High Court judge is seeking further information on strip searches in a North of Ireland prison before deciding whether to extradite a 40-year-old Belfast man wanted there in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black.
Mr Damien Joseph McLaughlin, with an address at Glenties Rd, Belfast, was arrested in County Donegal last March on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Northern Ireland authorities.
He is wanted to face allegations that he aided and abetted in the murder of David Black on November 1st, 2012, and was in possession of an article suspected of being for the commission of the act of murder.
Mr 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 jail.
Mr McLaughlin is also charged with engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism and of being a member of a proscribed organisation. The maximum penalties applicable to each of the four offences are ten years, 15 years and two penalties of life imprisonment.
Previously, his barrister, David Leonard BL, claimed his client’s constitutional right and his right under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights not to be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment would be breached by virtue of the prison conditions he would be subject to in Maghaberry prison in the North of Ireland on surrender.
Mr Leonard said that the full-body searches (strip-searches) which took place in Maghaberry and also in conjunction with the background of controlled movement within the prison, reached the threshold of inhuman and degrading treatment.
High Court judge Ms Aileen Donnelly delivered her written judgement today, where she said she rejected the contention that restrictions on movement amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment.
Ms Justice Donnelly said she also rejected the respondent’s claim that he would be at real risk of being exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment because of the manner in which the strip-searches will be carried out.
However, the judge said the question of whether there is a necessity for a full-body search in light of improvements in technology was a separate issue. “The main evidence before me as to a lack of justification for these strip-searches is that technology exists to resolve the necessity for full-body searches,” she said.
She said the court also had credible evidence before it from information provided to a Joint Oireachtas Committee from highly respected persons that Portlaoise Prison operated technology which meant full-body searches were no longer required.
“This information questions whether full-body searches ie strip-searches are necessary in the absence of an indication by the technology,” she said.
The judge said she was entitled to rely upon the evidence presented to the Oireachtas Committee as a credible source of information for the purposes of assessing general conditions in which republican prisoners are held in Maghaberry. She said it amounted to “objective, reliable, specific and updated information” that rebutted the presumption that full-body searches were necessary on entry and exit to Maghaberry prison due to available technology.
“This means that the general conditions in Roe House (at Maghaberry prison) in so far as they relate to strip-searching raise a real risk that this respondent could be subjected to inhuman and degrading conditions on surrender,” she said.
Ms Justice Donnelly asked that further information be obtained in this jurisdiction and from the North of Ireland to show that this technology is limited or that there are specific reasons why strip-searching on entering and leaving the prison are necessary, or that Mr McLaughlin will not be subject to such strip-searching on each individual occasion he enters and leaves the prison.
The judge requested the Minister for Justice to provide her with “any relevant information” about the technology in use in this jurisdiction and she also requested further information from the UK.
A resumed hearing will take place on November 21 and Mr McLaughlin was remanded in custody until that date.
With many thanks to: Irish Republican Prisoner News.
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