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Murderer granted leave to seek judicial review of his prison security status

The high court in Belfast

A CONVICTED murderer has won High Court permission to challenge a security classification which is frustrating his hopes of release from jail.

Darren Hart was granted leave to seek a judicial review of his Category A status within HMP Maghaberry.

His lawyers claim the Northern Ireland Prison Service decision is unlawful and procedurally flawed.

Hart (31) formerly from Mourneview Park in Newry, received a life sentence for stabbing 18-year-old Brendan McCabe to death in February 2002.

He was still a youth when he carried out the knife attack at Canal Street in the city.

Although Hart has now completed his minimum 12-year tariff, the security classification prevents access to parole or pre-release programmes.

His barrister, Stephen Toal, argued that the Prison Service breached its duty to act fairly.

He also contended that it had failed to provide a proper gist of the information relied on for the security status.

Following submissions, Mr Justice Maguire ruled that an arguable case had been established on some grounds of challenge.

Granting leave to seek a judicial review, he listed the case for a further review in September.

Outside court Hart's lawyer, Kevin McDonnell of O'Muirigh Solicitors, claimed the authorities are out of line with how classifications are determined for inmates in England and Wales.

Mr McDonnell said: "My client believes the security categorisation is unfair, procedurally and substantively, in how the Prison Service arrived at their decision."

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