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David Black murder: Unionist anger at Dublin extradition judgment

Damien McLaughlin faces charges over the killing of prison officer David Black
Connla Young

CALLS have been made for an end to strip searching at Maghaberry prison after a judge in Dublin said a man facing extradition over the killing of prison officer David Black could be subjected to “inhuman and degrading conditions”.

The Irish News yesterday revealed details of a High Court judgment involving Co Tyrone man Damien McLaughlin (40).

The father-of-four, from Ardboe, was arrested in Co Donegal in March on foot of a European Arrest Warrant after going missing from a bail address in west Belfast last November.

He is accused of aiding and abetting the murder of Mr Black as he drove to work in Maghaberry on the M1 on November 1 2012, and being in ‘possession of an article suspected of being for the commission of the act of murder'.

He is also charged with ‘engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism' and of being a member of a proscribed organisation.

Maghaberry Prison has been at the centre of a bitter protest with republican inmates in the segregated Roe House demanding an end to strip searches and controlled movement.

In a judgment delivered last Friday, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said she was satisfied that evidence presented to an Oireachtas committee "amounts to objective, reliable, specific and updated information that rebuts the presumption that full-body searches are necessary on entry and exit to Maghaberry (in the absence of specific indications of the need for such a search) due to available technology."

"This means that the general conditions in Roe House in so far as they relate to strip searching raise a real risk that this respondent could be subjected to inhuman and degrading conditions on surrender.”

The judge said she has requested that the Irish government provide information about body scanning technology used in the south, which has also been discussed for use in Maghaberry in the past.

"I will seek further information from the United Kingdom," she added.

McLaughlin's solicitor Peter Corrigan said strip searching should be “stopped immediately in light of this judgment”.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie said he was shocked by the judge's comments, insisting “there are times when searching has to take place”.

“I think this is absolutely staggering judgment, that any judge could say being searched in that manner is degrading,” the Upper Bann MLA said.

However, former SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said the ruling had raised questions about the necessity for strip searches.

“They require an explanation from prison authorities in the north - what technology is available, if it's available, why is it not being used."

She added that "when you are denied your freedom you should at least be treated as a human being".

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Raymond McCartney said an end to strip searching was one of the key recommendations of a prison review six years ago.

“This ruling by the judge outlines that strip searching is out of step with any semblance of human rights standards necessary in 2017 and should be ended immediately.”

A spokeswoman for the Prison Service said Boss (Body Orifice Security Scanner) chairs “are one form of search method used at Maghaberry”.

“BOSS chairs are simply metal detectors and are therefore supported by other search methods.

“BOSS chairs are routinely used in other prisons across the UK.”

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