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Man jailed over police car numbers wins High Court battle

By Alan Erwin

A west Belfast man jailed for having police officers' car registration numbers has won High Court permission to challenge counter-terrorism foreign travel notification requirements.

Irish citizen Anthony McDonnell was granted leave to seek a judicial review against the British Home Secretary amid claims the regime unlawfully restrains his freedom of movement within the European Union.

In December 2013 he was convicted of five counts of possessing the car registration numbers.

McDonnell served half his three years-and-six-months sentence in custody before being released on licence.

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

It means he must notify police a week in advance of any proposed trip of three days or more outside the UK. A further obligation involves confirming his return within three days. Failure to comply is a criminal offence.

McDonnell wants to continue visiting the Republic of Ireland for family reasons. Although trips took place without problem, a difficulty in recording his return occurred in June.

McDonnell issued proceedings, 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 added.

Granting leave to apply for judicial review, a panel of judges ruled an arguable case had been established that the notification requirement is unlawful without any assessment or reassessment of any offender representing a genuine and real current risk.

The challenge will now proceed to a full hearing in the new year.

Outside court McDonnell's solicitor, Michael Brentnall, claimed the provisions are unlawful under EU law.

Mr Brentnall said: "It is further contended that these travel notification requirements were transposed to this jurisdiction without due consideration of the rights of Irish citizens and the all-Ireland dimension, within the context of their citizenship of the European Union.

"The same difficulties that have been encountered in the Brexit negotiations have arisen in this case, and our client intends to rely on his EU rights in pursuing this challenge."

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