Convicted murderer Gareth Anderson wins legal battle after being put into isolation in Maghaberry prison
A convicted murderer has won a legal battle over his security re-categorisation in prison.
The Court of Appeal declared that Gareth Anderson was subjected to procedural unfairness in the delay in providing enough reasons for the move.
Anderson, 34, is serving a life sentence for his role in the killing of hospital porter David Hamilton.
Mr Hamilton was beaten to death at his home in the Ballybeen estate, on the outskirts of east Belfast, in 2004.
Anderson, who lived in the same block of flats as the victim, was one of three men convicted of the murder.
He is serving a minimum 16-year sentence for his role in the killing.
Last year he was allegedly put into isolation at HMP Maghaberry following an investigation into the suspected smuggling of illicit substances into the jail.
Anderson's status was also changed from Category C to the maximum security Category A, according to his lawyers.
Proceedings were brought against the Northern Ireland Prison Service, claiming he had not been subject to relevant adjudications.
His lawyers argued that he was held in isolation for weeks without being able to persuade the authorities that the allegations against him were unfounded.
They contended that he had been provided with little information about the alleged misbehaviour, rendering him unable to make meaningful representations in his defence.
Anderson's legal team claimed a justification that he was subject of a joint prison and police investigation was contradicted when they checked with the PSNI.
Although he was returned to the general prison population, he was said to have remained a Category A inmate at that stage.
Anderson mounted a judicial review challenge in a bid to have his re-categorisation ruled unlawful.
Issues were raised over the provision of information by prison authorities about the allegations, so that informed representations can be made in rebuttal.
A High Court judge dismissed the case on the basis that he had been given a clear enough indication about the intervention in relation to alleged criminal activity.
But Anderson's lawyer, Eoin Murphy of O'Muirigh Solicitors, said that decision was not maintained in the Court of Appeal.
Judges allowed the challenge and made a declaration, agreed by parties in the case, that Anderson was subject to procedural unfairness in the delay in providing him with an adequate gist of the reasons for his re-categorisation as a Category A prisoner.
Outside court Mr Murphy insisted his client had not been treated in a manner consistent with the obligations imposed on public authorities.
"The Prison Service have a duty to provide as much information as possible to allow for meaningful and informed representations to be made in a prisoner's defence," he said.
"It should not be the case that simply because of incarceration, a person should have qualified rights in defending allegations against them."
The solicitor added: "It is hoped that this will prevent such subversion of the rules in future and clarify those rights which must be adhered to going forward."
Belfast Telegraph Digital