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Belfast man jailed over police car reg numbers going to Supreme Court over foreign trip requirements

The west Belfast man served time for having police officers' car registration numbers
The west Belfast man served time for having police officers' car registration numbers

A Belfast man jailed for possessing police officers' car registration numbers is set to go to Supreme Court over being forced to inform the authorities about trips outside the UK.

Anthony John McDonnell claims the foreign travel notification requirements imposed under counter-terrorism legislation unlawfully restrains his right to free movement within the European Union.

Earlier this year High Court judges in Belfast rejected his case, ruling that the need for public protection outweighed any inhibition on his travel arrangements.

But McDonnell's lawyer revealed today that they have now certified a legal point of general public importance for potential consideration on appeal to the Supreme Court.

An application will now be made for justices sitting in London to consider the merits of the case before Brexit.

Solicitor Michael Brentnall said: "We submit that the notification requirements imposed on our client under the Counter Terrorism Act 2008 are contrary to EU law, and we will be attempting to have this matter placed before of the Supreme Court prior to the deadline of Brexit on October 31."

In December 2013 McDonnell was convicted of five counts of having information likely to be of use to terrorists.

The 49-year-old Irish citizen, with a previous address in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast, was found to be in possession of security force members' vehicle registration details.

He served half of a three years and six months sentence in custody before being released on licence.

Due to the type of offences he remains subject to foreign travel notification requirements under the Counter Terrorism Act until 2023.

It means he must give inform police in advance of any proposed trip of three days or more outside the UK.

A further obligation involves confirming his return within three days. Any failure to comply would be a criminal offence.

McDonnell wants to continue visiting the Republic of Ireland for family reasons.

During school holidays he regularly takes his children to stay at a relative's caravan in Omeath, Co Louth, the High Court heard.

Although trips took place without problem, a difficulty in recording his return occurred in June 2017.

McDonnell then issued judicial review proceedings against the British Home Secretary, seeking a declaration that the automatic imposition of foreign travel notification requirements is unlawful.

His lawyers argued that rather than a blanket approach, the regime should involve a case by case assessment where all relevant circumstances are considered.

Any perceived security threat must also be genuine, real and current, they contended.

But in May judges held that the case involved a "modest intrusion" on McDonnell's entitlements.

Dismissing the challenge, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said at the time: "When balancing the need for public protection, which is the legitimate aim of the notification requirements, against any inhibiting factor in having the go through the physical procedures associated with those requirements, we are entirely satisfied that the balance comes down firmly in favour of protection."

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