A row has erupted after a man who raped a 91-year-old pensioner failed to appear at a court hearing after the Prison Service deemed a Co Londonderry courthouse "unsuitable" for high-risk prisoners.
Eamon Foley (47) was not produced in Limavady for a hearing yesterday - and a police inspector told the magistrate that the Prison Service was " reluctant" to do so for "safety reasons".
The Prison Service later confirmed that they deem Limavady Courthouse " unsuitable for high-risk prisoners" - despite the defendant appearing in the same venue in September.
Foley, originally from Castlederg, was released from Magilligan Prison in October after serving eight years of a 16-year sentence after he was convicted of raping 91-year-old Mary-Anne McLaughlin in 1999.
Ms McLaughlin died four weeks after the attack.
Foley was immediately re-arrested on his release after failing to provide an address for the Sexual Offenders Register and has been in jail ever since.
He has made a number of court appearances connected with the granting of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order.
A Prison Service spokesperson today said: "Foley is a Category A prisoner and Limavady Courthouse isn't equipped to deal with Category A prisoners. When he appeared in September, he was a free man - it was during the period between his release and his return to jail."
Finlay Spratt of the Prison Officers Association said that there were a number of concerns relating to the courthouse.
"There is no vehicular access - vans have to park outside and the prisoners have to be walked inside," he said.
"The Prison Service isn't to know there is or isn't a crowd waiting to protest outside, as has happened in the past. Inside the courtroom the dock is open. We have to think about the safety of our officers and the prisoner.
"The issue here is that the Prison Service told the Court Service of their concerns and a decision was taken."
Resident Magistrate Juanita Boyd ordered that Foley appear in Londonderry Magistrates Court on December 27.