Prisoner challenges privileges denial

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A man jailed over a mortar bomb plot must have known he was breaching temporary release conditions by associating with three prominent republicans, the High Court has heard.

Sean McConville had been temporarily let out of Maghaberry Prison.

Senior counsel for the Prison Service claimed Sean McConville could have avoided contact with Colin Duffy, Henry Fitzsimons and Brendan Conway while out of HMP Maghaberry.

McConville is challenging the decision to punish him by denying privileges and two further home leaves for being in the trio’s company late last year.

The 27-year-old Lurgan man is serving a 15-year sentence for possession of explosives discovered in the town in 2007.

As part of his pre-release programme, he was allowed out of prison on condition that he had no contact with anyone linked to paramilitary organisations or criminal activity.

But penalties were imposed after he was seen with Duffy, Fitzsimons and Conway - allegedly senior and prominent republican figures.

All three men have spent time on the separated republican wing at Roe House in Maghaberry.

Lawyers for McConville claim he was unlawfully punished, and that the no-contact conditions were too vague.

His privacy and family life entitlements under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights have been breached, they contended.

But Tony McGleenan QC, for the Prison Service, argued that those who sign up for the separated regime know what it entailed.

“There is sufficient evidential basis to conclude they were aligned to an active paramilitary group,” he said.

The barrister added that prisoners going on temporary release are also warned to seek guidance on any uncertainties.

“It appears the applicant would have had any opportunity to do that,” Mr McGleenan said.

“He wasn’t present at home when Mr Fitzsimons and Mr Conway called, he was told they were there and that Mr Duffy was previously looking for him.

“He could have sought clarity before he encountered them, none of that was done.”

Contending that the pre-release prohibitions were precise enough, Mr McGleenan told the court: “The applicant could have had no doubt, he could have predicted that a consequence of associating with three prominent former residents of Roe House would be a compromise of conditions to which he willingly signed up.”

Following submissions, Mr Justice Stephens said he would try to give judgment on the judicial review application next week.