Belfast Telegraph

Prison officer is accused of involvement in Maghaberry smuggling conspiracy

By Alan Erwin

A prison officer was allegedly involved in a conspiracy to smuggle illicit items into a high security Northern Ireland jail, the High Court heard yesterday.

The member of staff remains suspended as part of an ongoing police investigation into "serious criminal activity both inside and outside" HMP Maghaberry.

Details emerged as a man serving a 15-year-sentence for attempted murder launched a legal challenge to having his regime status changed due to the probe.

Hugh McCormick is seeking to judicially review the Prison Service after his security classification was increased based on intelligence about his alleged role in trafficking undisclosed materials.

His lawyers claims that it was an unlawful move against a man who hasn't been arrested and only given a basic gist of the information held against him.

The 51-year-old, formerly of Rosevale Street in Belfast, was found guilty with his brother James McCormick (47) of attacking Joseph Henry in July 2011.

Mr Henry was hit over the head with a crowbar and stabbed in the neck during the assault outside his home in the Markets area of Belfast.

Hugh McCormick's regime status within the jail changed after an investigation was launched in March of this year.

The court heard information allegedly connects him and others to the criminal activity.

But his barrister, Conor Maguire, argued that McCormick has been unfairly treated.

He said: "We do know that a prison officer is linked to the investigation and has been suspended from duty.

"Others have been arrested, cautioned, questioned and released by police and yet Mr McCormick continues to bear the brunt of an investigation where he hasn't been questioned by police.

"That seems improper and inappropriate."

Matthew Corkey, for the Prison Service, told the court intelligence was gathered from telephone monitoring, security information reports and CCTV.

He contended that in such a sensitive case it had been right to provide a gist of the information indicating the "fundamental illicit behaviour of smuggling to the prison has been identified".

The alleged conspiracy involved staff, prisoners and others outside the jail.

Mr Corkey insisted there had been no breach of procedures to merit a further legal challenge.

Following submissions, Mr Justice Colton reserved judgment on the application until a further date for leave to see a judicial review.

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