Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Fury after jailed killer wins right to post cash

The DUP has hit out after a man jailed for murdering a schoolgirl and hiding her body in a coal bunker won a legal challenge over being refused permission to send cash from jail to his daughter.

On a majority verdict, senior judges backed James Junior McKinstry Craig's appeal against the decision, taken as part of a policy introduced to crackdown on drug dealing and potential money laundering within Maghaberry Prison.

They dismissed a separate challenge by another life sentence inmate, Ralph Phillips, whose request to send £50 out for his daughter's birthday was denied.

A distinction was made in the two cases because Craig wanted to pass out earnings made behind bars, rather than using cash brought in by visitors.

Both men were seeking to overturn judicial review rulings over a Prison Service Policy introduced in April 2008 following a review of efforts to halt the supply of drugs into the jail.

Investigations confirmed that prisoners suspected of drug dealing regularly received payments into their Inmates Personal Cash (IPC) accounts.

It was estimated that in 2007 at Maghaberry alone £700,000 was received for prisoners.

Payments were made into IPC accounts, with the sums then turned around and passed back out to visitors. Some prisoners received up to six payments a day.

The Prison Service's head of security information branch concluded there was clear evidence that the old system was facilitating drugs payments and possibly money laundering.

The new policy limited IPC accounts to a maximum of £500 and prohibited prisoners from passing cash out without permission of the Governor and only in exceptional circumstances.

Craig (39) launched legal proceedings after his request to be allowed to send out £250 for the support of his daughter from earnings built up on a £25-a-week wage for work in prison.

He was jailed for life in 1998 for the murder of Sonia Forsythe (13).

The Girls’ Model pupil went missing in June 1991. Her decomposed body was only found nearly five years later in a bunker at Craig's then-home in the Shankill area of Belfast.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said he was outraged to learn that the prisoners’ families could benefit from time in jail, particularly people like Craig, who deprived another family of a daughter.

He said: “Once again, tens of thousands of pounds have been spent on protecting the rights of prisoners who have committed the most heinous crimes. I remember this murder and even though it is quite some time ago it is still very vivid in my memory.”

Court of Appeal judges ruled in favour of Craig’s challenge to the failed judicial review application by a two to one majority.

All three judges agreed that Phillips' appeal should be dismissed.

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