David Black death: Damien McLaughlin to stand trial after court challenge rejected

A man charged in connection with the murder of a prison officer near Lurgan has failed in a bid to overturn an order for him to stand trial.

Wednesday, 20th April 2016, 2:11 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th April 2016, 3:15 pm
David Black

David Black was shot dead while driving to work in Maghaberry Prison in 2012.

Damien McLaughlin, 39, of Kilmascally Road in Dungannon faces four charges.

His legal team said he should not face trial as the wrong legal test was applied and he was unfairly denied the chance to cross-examine a key prosecution witness.

However, Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan, ruled that this was not the case.

Mr McLaughlin is charged with aiding and abetting Mr Black’s murder, having a Toyota Camry car for use in terrorism, preparing a terrorist act by starting and moving the vehicle which the killers used, and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

Mr Black, a 52-year-old father of two, was the first Northern Ireland prison officer to be murdered in nearly 20 years.

Last June, a preliminary investigation resulted in the district judge ordering Mr McLaughlin to be returned for trial.

Mr McLaughlin’s legal team began judicial review proceedings against decisions to admit hearsay evidence and to return him for trial.

Their challenge centred on statements from a man who was arrested and interviewed as a suspect in the murder plot but was not called as a witness during the preliminary investigation.

Mr McLaughlin’s legal team said there is a statutory right to cross-examine witnesses before trial.

A prosecution barrister countered that the proceedings were a form of satellite litigation.

He also stressed that the district judge was not deciding on the issue of guilt or innocence.

Dismissing the application, Sir Declan said: “There were material circumstances in this case including the availability of audiovisual material, the CCTV evidence, the fact that the witness was outside the jurisdiction and that his reluctance may be related to his being interviewed as a suspect which lead us to reject the submission that the admission of the evidence was irrational or perverse.”