A HIGH-PROFILE loyalist jailed for sexually abusing a schoolgirl yesterday lost his High Court challenge to being refused temporary home leave.
Mark Harbinson was seeking to overturn a Prison Service decision that it was inappropriate to allow him a period on release.
But a judge rejected all arguments advanced on his behalf, including claims that it breached his right to family life.
"The longer it went on, the more the case partook of an impermissible merits-based challenge to the prison service decision to refuse Mr Harbinson temporary release," Mr Justice Treacy said.
Harbinson, a married 45-year-old from Sheepwalk Road, Stoneyford, Co Antrim, was jailed for three and a half years in May last year after being found guilty of sexual abuse and having topless pictures of the girl on his phone.
According to the prosecution he spent months grooming his victim, with more than 1,700 text messages sent between them.
Harbinson was acquitted of separate indecent assault charges, while the jury at his trial failed to reach a verdict on further alleged offences.
Harbinson, who came to prominence during the Drumcree marching protest, has continued to protest his innocence.
Earlier this year he failed in an appeal against his convictions, with senior judges finding there was compelling evidence against him.
Despite the guilty verdict being upheld, he is planning a further attempt to clear his name at the Supreme Court in London.
Meanwhile, Harbinson's lawyers brought separate judicial review proceedings over the refusal of temporary home leave ahead of his release from jail in May 2013.
His barrister, Aidan McGowan, argued that his client's refusal to accept his guilt should not be a relevant consideration.
He contended that too much weight was placed on Harbinson's conviction, with a risk assessment score said to have put him within the qualifying grouping.
It was also claimed that the rights of Harbinson's partner and young son must be taken into account.
Peter Coll, for the prison service, countered that the loyalist was re fused temporary release because he has refused to take part in of-fence-related work and rehabilitation programmes.
"He's a sex offender and that is a pointed matter of concern," Mr Coll said.
The barrister also referred to an outburst by Harbinson in court when he lost his appeal against conviction.
"We say it's entirely relevant and somewhat indicative of his reaction to situations of stress and situations where he may not be able to exercise full control," he said.
After hearing both sides, Mr Justice Treacy ruled that Harbinson had failed to establish an arguable case on any ground of challenge.
He then dismissed the application for leave to seek a judicial review.