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Prison officer David Black murder accused blocked in making appeal to Supreme Court

By Alan Erwin

Published 17/05/2016

Damien McLaughlin at an earlier court appearance
Damien McLaughlin at an earlier court appearance
David Black

The only man charged in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black was blocked from asking the Supreme Court to overturn an order for him to stand trial.

Senior judges in Belfast on Tuesday refused Damien McLaughlin's application after rejecting claims his case raised a point of law of general public importance.

Lawyers for the 39-year-old claim he was unfairly denied the chance to cross-examine a key prosecution witness.

They also contended that a district judge who committed him for trial applied the wrong legal test.

McLaughlin, from the Kilmascally Road in Dungannon, is facing four charges in relation to the prison officer's killing.

They include aiding and abetting his murder, having a Toyota Camry car for use in terrorism, preparing a terrorist act by starting and moving the vehicle which the killers used, and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

Mr Black was shot dead on the M1 in County Armagh in November 2012 en route to work at high security Maghaberry Prison.

The 52-year-old father of two was the first Northern Ireland prison officer to be murdered in nearly 20 years.

The prosecution alleges McLaughlin transported the Toyota car across the Irish border on the eve of the attack.

In June last year a preliminary investigation resulted in the district judge ordering him to be returned for trial.

McLaughlin's legal team launched judicial review proceedings against decisions to admit hearsay evidence and to return him for trial.

Their challenge centred on statements from a man who was arrested and interviewed by the Garda as a suspect in the murder plot.

He was not called as a witness during the preliminary investigation.

Counsel for McLaughlin, who is currently on bail, argued that there is a statutory right to cross-examine witnesses before trial.

A prosecution barrister countered that the proceedings were a form of satellite litigation.

Last month the High Court dismissed the judicial review challenge after ruling there was nothing irrational or perverse about the process.

McLaughlin's legal team returned on Tuesday to seek permission from judges to take their case to the Supreme Court in London.

But refusing leave, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "We have decided we are not going to certify a point of law of general public importance.

"The decision for the magistrate in committal (proceedings) is a broad discretionary judgment taking account of all relevant factors.

"We have concluded the magistrate did not err in the approach in this particular case."

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