Leading republican Tony Taylor returned to prison after licence revoked

 Tony Taylor has been returned to prison after his licence was revoked. Picture Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

Lawyers for high-profile republican Tony Taylor have launched a legal challenge against a decision to revoke his licence and return him to jail.

The 48-year-old was detained at his home in Derry on Thursday night and returned to Maghaberry Prison on the instructions of Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

Republican Network for Unity hit out at the arrest of its ard chomhairle member as an attack on the organisation.

However, the Northern Ireland Office said his licence was revoked by the Parole Commission because of the risk he posed to the public.

Taylor was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1994 after he was seriously injured in a premature explosion in Derry. The Provisional IRA inmate was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In 2011, he was then sentenced to three years behind bars for possession of a rifle in a case that made history by using covert surveillance evidence gathered by a drone.

Solicitor Aiden Carlin confirmed yesterday that he intended challenging “by way of a judicial review” the lawfulness, necessity and proportionality of the NIO decision to recall his client to prison.

Mr Carlin said: “It is argued this is a case of internment in all but name. Our instructions are that since his release from prison one and a half years ago Tony Taylor has positively contributed to local politics in Derry by peacefully raising benefit cuts, prison conditions and policing issues.”

He said a judicial review was initiated yesterday.

Republican Network for Unity said Taylor had "spearheaded the revival of RNU in the Derry area".

"Here we have another blatant case of internment, whereby a republican has been sent straight to Maghaberry without crime or trial."

Sinn Fein assembly member Raymond McCartney also called on Ms Villiers to release Taylor immediately.

"The continued use of unjust powers by the British government to revoke a person’s licence without producing any evidence of wrongdoing is an affront to human rights and natural justice," he said.

He said if there was evidence that Taylor was a risk to the public it should be put before him in open court so it could be challenged.

A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State said the independent Parole Commission recommended Taylor’s licence be revoked because of the risk he posed to the public.

She said: “It is now for the Parole Commissioners to consider whether Mr Taylor should serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. This review is underway and Mr Taylor and his legal representatives will have the opportunity to challenge the case against him.”

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