A Catholic man jailed for slashing a doctor's neck allegedly suffered discrimination in being denied temporary release for his mother's funeral, the High Court heard today.
Lawyers for Michael Larkin claimed the refusal, based on the potential security risk to prison staff accompanying him to a nationalist area, unlawfully breached his human rights.
Larkin, 32, is mounting a renewed legal challenge to the decision taken after his mother died in November 2019.
At the time he was serving a 10-year sentence for trying to murder the medic at Craigavon Area Hospital.
Larkin was also convicted of attacking two mental health workers with a sharpened toothbrush handle during incidents within psychiatric facilities in 2014.
During his trial the court heard he attacked the doctor from behind with a blade, slashed him twice on the neck and above the eyelid.
Days later he launched further assaults on members of staff at the hospital's psychiatric unit.
Larkin previously failed in an emergency judicial review to being denied permission to attend his mother's funeral in Newry, Co Down.
But he has how issued fresh proceedings based on newly obtained information.
The court heard that over a two-year period 68 applications by prisoners from a Catholic background for compassionate temporary release were refused because of a threat to security personnel.
During the same period 10 applications by Protestant inmates were turned down.
Larkin's barrister, Fiona Doherty QC, contended: "There is a disproportionate adverse impact on people from a Catholic background.
"That raises the issue of indirect discrimination."
With the challenge also focused on Larkin being unable to visit his mother just before her death, his legal team claimed rights to family life were breached.
The Prison Service is resisting the challenge, arguing that it has been brought out of time and is now academic.
Following submissions Mr Justice Colton reserved judgment on the application for leave to seek a judicial review.
Outside court Larkin's solicitor, Gavin Booth, said: "Time and time again we are faced with the issue of prisoners from nationalist or republican areas in Newry or Derry being refused compassionate temporary release because of where they are from.
"We believe this amounts to discrimination."