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Legal challenge against rule on inmates having solicitor's mobile numbers

Nathan Hastings was caught with weapons during an undercover police operation in 2013

A dissident republican prisoner has won High Court permission to challenge a policy banning access to solicitors' mobile phone numbers.

Nathan Hastings was granted leave to seek a judicial review of a prohibition aimed at preventing inmates from communicating with terrorist or criminal accomplices.

His legal team claim the bar is in breach of his human rights and "absurd", given that prisoners in England can call their solicitors' mobiles despite the high-level jihadist threat.

Hastings, 24, from Strandowen Drive in Derry, is serving a 10-year sentence for possessing guns, explosives and ammunition.

Described as a "footsoldier" for dissident republicans, he was caught with the weapons during an undercover police operation in the city in 2013.

Proceedings were issued against the Northern Ireland Prison Service after he was prevented from adding the mobile telephone number of his solicitor, Fearghal Shiels of Madden and Finucane, to his permitted list.

According to papers in the case the Prison Service's position is based on mobile phones being insecure and capable of being lost or stolen.

Despite lawyers for the Prison Service claiming the legal challenge is out of time, Mrs Justice Keegan ruled that leave to apply for judicial review should be granted.

She said: "It seems to me there's an arguable case on these factual circumstances.

"That is no indicator of success in the ultimate hearing."

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