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Dissident's bid for High Court to rule on bugging case is blocked

By Alan Erwin

Published 23/09/2016

Colin Duffy at a previous court appearance
Colin Duffy at a previous court appearance

High Court judges have told prominent dissident republican Colin Duffy they do not have the authority to hear his legal challenge, after he was not given assurances his consultations with lawyers would not be bugged.

Exclusive authority for determining the case was held to rest with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal sitting in London.

Duffy (48), from Forest Glade in Lurgan, Co Armagh, is challenging the Westminster Government for allegedly refusing to provide guarantees that the security services did not subject his meetings with lawyers to covert surveillance.

He is one of three men facing trial on charges of belonging to an IRA grouping and attempting to murder members of the PSNI.

They faces further counts of possessing firearms and ammunition, and conspiracy to murder security force members.

The alleged offences are connected to a gun attack on a police convoy in the north of Belfast.

A PSNI Land Rover and two accompanying vehicles came under fire on the Crumlin Road in December 2013. Duffy is charged along with 54-year-old Alex McCrory, from Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast, and Henry Fitzsimons (47), of no fixed address.

Separate legal proceedings were launched in an effort to gain assurances that the security services were not listening in to Duffy's legal consultations. He was said to have received satisfactory assurances from the Prison Service, Courts and Tribunal Service and the National Crime Agency. But no such guarantee was given by the Home Office.

Judicial review proceedings were lodged in a bid to have the failure to provide that assurance quashed and declared incompatible with Duffy's human rights.

However, a panel of three senior judges had to first determine if they had authority to deal with the case, or if the issues should go before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, set up to monitor surveillance authorised under the 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

The tribunal sits as an independent court to decide on allegations of unlawful intrusion by public bodies and claims under the Human Rights Act.

Delivering judgment, Lord Justice Weatherup held that the proceedings were directed against the Secretary of State as representative of the intelligence services. He said: "We are satisfied that the Divisional Court (of the High Court) does not have jurisdiction to hear this application for judicial review, and that exclusive jurisdiction lies with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal."

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