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Police found cash, drugs and mobile phones at prison officer's home, court hears

Hugh McCormick is serving a prison sentence

POLICE investigating an alleged conspiracy to traffic illegal substances into a jail discovered cash, drugs and mobile phones at a serving prison officer's home, the High Court has heard.

The haul was said to have been found during follow-up searches after the warder was stopped from entering HMP Maghabbery in an arrest operation in March.

New details emerged as a man serving a 15-year-sentence for attempted murder lost a legal challenge to having his regime status changed due to the probe.

Hugh McCormick was seeking to judicially review the Prison Service after his security classification was increased based on intelligence about his alleged role in the suspected smuggling plot.

But a judge rejected claims that it was an unlawful move against a man who hasn't been arrested and only given a basic gist of the information held against him.

Mr Justice Colton held that an affidavit from a governor at the jail provided adequate information at this stage in the process.

He said: "It is not arguable that there has been procedural unfairness in relation to the particular decision in this case to re-categorise the applicant as a Category A prisoner."

McCormick (51) formerly of Rosevale Street in Belfast, and his 47-year-old brother James were found guilty of attacking Joseph Henry in July 2011.

Mr Henry was hit over the head with a crowbar and stabbed in the neck during the assault outside his home in the Markets area of Belfast.

Hugh McCormick's regime status within the jail changed after the investigation was launched in March this year.

The court heard information allegedly connects him and others to the criminal activity.

It was previously disclosed that a prison officer linked to the investigation has been suspended from duty.

Further information was supplied in the governor's affidavit which formed part of the judgment.

Intelligence gathered from telephone monitoring, security information reports and CCTV suggested McCormick, other prisoners and a member of staff had potentially become involved in serious criminal activity, according to the statement.

The governor continued: "During the course of this operation a serving prison officer, who worked in Braid House, was stopped from entering the prison, had his car searched and was arrested by the PSNI.

"A follow-up search of the prison officer's home uncovered a significant amount of cash, drugs and a number of mobile phones."

In his ruling, Mr Justice Colton said the decision was clearly based on intelligence and confidential information suggesting McCormick's involvement in serious criminal activity both inside and outside Maghaberry.

"Specifically the intelligence relates to the trafficking of illegal substances and articles into the prison and that the serving prison officer was being used to traffic such items," he added.

Although the judge held that enough of a gist had been provided, he stressed that a further challenge could be brought in future to any decision to maintain McCormick's Category A status.

Refusing leave for judicial review, he directed: "The Prison Service must monitor the ongoing investigation and respond to any developments insofar as they impact upon the alleged role of the applicant in any criminal activity."

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