Belfast Telegraph

Justice system has betrayed Black family

Editor's Viewpoint

There are times when the judicial and security systems in Northern Ireland simply beggar belief.

A good example of this concerns the case of a man who is to stand trial on terror charges associated with the murder of prison officer David Black, and was granted bail last May after being on remand. He has not been found by the police since November last year.

In August last year, Damien Joseph McLaughlin had his bail conditions relaxed for three days during which he was seen at an anti-internment protest in west Belfast.

During the same period he took a break at a luxury spa resort in Co Fermanagh. It is little wonder that the late Mr Black's son, Kyle, has said: "I wish Daddy still had his basic human right of living, never mind being able to go away on a luxury weekend break."

Many people will also agree with Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, who claimed that it was a "disgrace" that the individual concerned was deemed to have met bail conditions in the first place.

As if all of this was not bad enough, it appears that the PSNI is unable to trace McLaughlin, and at the time of writing this, no-one seems to know if he has absconded ahead of his trial. Lord Morrow MLA has written to the Chief Constable George Hamilton, demanding how the accused man has been "lost" by the police, and he speaks for many people when he describes the handling of McLaughlin's case, from the granting of bail to his apparent disappearance from the police monitoring radar, as "incredulous".

Lord Morrow is also right to point out that if it were not for the "elongated" judicial system in Northern Ireland, McLaughlin's time of remand would not have been longer than necessary, and the issue of bail would not have been raised.

All of this poses the question as to whether an individual in any other part of the United Kingdom, or Ireland, facing such serious charges would have been granted bail.

The police response to questions about this disturbing issue has been poor, to the point of virtually a curt dismissal.

It is simply not good enough for a spokesperson to say blandly that the PSNI has nothing further to add to what has already been disclosed in court.

The police must do better than this, not only in properly monitoring people facing trial, but also in how it explains itself to the public.

Belfast Telegraph

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