Northern Ireland news

Lawyers criticise suggestion of attending proceedings by video-link from police station

Patrick McDaid

A LAWYER for one of 10 accused of dissident terrorism-related charges, has hit back at claims of potential security risks, should he be permitted to attend further proceedings remotely from his home.

All accused were arrested under a joint investigation between the PSNI and MI5, codenamed Operation Arbacia, and face similar allegations of IRA membership and directing terrorist activity between 2018 and 2020.

They are David Jordan, Sharon Jordan, and Damien Joseph McLaughlin from Dungannon; Kevin Murphy from Coalisland, Isaam Bassalat from Edinburgh, Amanda McCabe and Shea Reynolds from Lurgan and Patrick McDaid, Joseph Barr and Gary Hayden from Derry.

Covert recordings captured discussions around the IRA executive, recruitment, weaponry, an economic bombing campaign, close-quarter shootings of police officers and cyber-attacks.

Bassalat, McDaid and Barr have since been freed on bail and attend court by video-link from their homes.

Prolonged proceedings involving defence challenges to prosecution evidence have been underway for many weeks, and while paused for a time, are set to resume imminently.

The next stage will examine the evidence of security service personnel, whose identities have been anonymised.

During a review at Dungannon Magistrates Court, the prosecution set out how video-link attendances by those on bail should be strictly controlled due to the potential to record the security personnel's voices, placing them at risk.

This suggestion of attending proceedings by video-link from a police station was met with consternation by defence lawyers.

McDaid’s barrister Joe Brolly said: “To suggest participation from Strand Road PSNI station under supervision of officers is unfair and oppressive, given the very long history of antagonism and distrust between my client and police. He is constantly searched and subjected to verbal abuse. Last year he and his wife videoed an encounter when they were taken from their car during a planned stop on the public street. It was entirely gratuitous, embarrassing and unnecessary.

"It’s fair to say he is loathed by police – or at the very least that is his overwhelming and plausible perception. It’s also fair to say he loathes and is extremely suspicious of them and uncomfortable in their company. Whatever the rights and wrongs, that incident demonstrated an extremely antagonistic attitude both ways, so to suggest participation in very serious criminal proceedings whilst under supervision and surveillance in a police station in circumstances where both sides are unremittingly hostile to each other, is disproportionate.”

In response, prosecution counsel confirmed the footage of McDaid’s stop showed: "Police were perfectly civil. He was in breach of bail and accepted as technical. Ironically, recording has already happened. McDaid and his wife recorded police – the very thing of concern. It wasn’t unlawful to do, but it’s what he did on interaction with authority.

"There is an obvious increased risk if more persons are permitted to join by link. That increased participation would diminish the deterrent effect. The more who join, the less likely the risk to someone who chooses to record."

District Judge Michael Ranaghan said he will rule on the position in due course.


Northern Ireland news