Northern Ireland news

Jailed dissident republican secures High Court permission to challenge alleged decisions to strip search him

Kieran Smyth contends prison staff unlawfully handcuffed and remained with him throughout medical consultations and tests

A JAILED dissident republican who previously went on the run has secured High Court permission to challenge alleged decisions to strip search him before and after attending a hospital appointment.

Kieran Smyth also contends prison staff unlawfully handcuffed and remained with him throughout the medical consultations and tests.

The 62-year-old was granted leave to seek a judicial review into claims that the authorities breached his right to privacy and left him "degraded".

Smyth, with a previous address at Springfield Avenue in Belfast, is serving a 12-year sentence for a violent home invasion robbery on an elderly couple in September 2013.

Masked intruders claiming to be loyalist paramilitaries entered the property in Ballynahinch, Co Down, tied up a businessman and his wife - then aged 82 and 76 - and threatened to cut their son's fingers off.

They stole more than £5,000 cash, a Rolex watch and a Mercedes car, ripping out phone lines before escaping.

Smyth was originally freed on licence in 2019 after serving half the term imposed for the robbery.

In March 2020 the secretary of state ordered his recall based on intelligence which suggested he posed a risk to national security.

He had allegedly gained access to a rocket launcher, forged links with dissident republicans and targeted members of the security forces following his initial release.

In July last year he was re-released following a decision by the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland. But after breaching strict conditions his licence was revoked again weeks later.

With Smyth classified as unlawfully at large at that stage, a police hunt culminated in him being arrested in north Belfast in December and returned to jail to complete his sentence.

His latest legal challenge against the Department of Justice centres on alleged treatment in connection with a medical appointment in March this year.

He is seeking a declaration that prison authorities breached his human rights by subjecting him to strip searches on departure from the hospital and after returning from the hospital to check for any concealed items.

"I found this to be degrading and stressful," he claimed in an affidavit.

"I do not think it was at all appropriate that I was subjected to this before attending hospital for tests on my heart."

Smyth further alleges that prison staff unlawfully restrained and remained with him throughout the private medical consultations.

Based on the court papers, Mr Justice Colton granted leave to apply for judicial review and listed the case for full hearing in October.

Welcoming the decision, Smyth's solicitor insisted inmates should no longer be strip searched.

Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law said: "There are more humane ways for the prison to conduct security checks. Prisoners should also have a right to privacy in medical consultations at all times."

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