Belfast Telegraph

Disgraced solicitor's bid to move to open prison

A disgraced solicitor jailed for inciting suspected loyalist paramilitaries to murder will learn next week if he can transfer to a more open regime, the High Court heard today.

Manmohan 'Johnny' Sandhu has put a legal challenge on hold pending the decision on his eligibility for the Foyleview resettlement unit in Derry.

He was seeking to judicially review decisions and policies which prohibited him moving to a regime with more privileges and greater freedom of movement.

His legal team argued that the stance taken by the Probation Board and the governor at Magilligan Prison was unreasonable and breached his human rights.

Sandhu, 47, formerly of Colby Avenue, Derry, was jailed for 10 years in 2009 after pleading guilty to incitement to murder and four charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice.

He was arrested in January 2006 after police secretly recorded his conversations with suspected terrorist clients at the Serious Crime Suite in Antrim.

The charges against him arose from the attempted assassination of taxi driver, Jonathan Hillier, and two killings during a power struggle between the Ulster Volunteer Force and rival Loyalist Volunteer Force in 2005.

As well as incitement to murder, he was accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice over the UVF murders of Jameson Lockhart and Andrew Cully.

A court was told that Sandhu incited members of the UVF to murder Mr Hillier as he recovered in hospital in August 2005 from a failed attempt on his life.

Prosecuters said Sandhu phoned an unknown person from Antrim police station and indicated that this man "should be taken out".

In another bugged conversation Sandhu was overheard coaching a client who was accused of killing Mr Lockhart.

The murder victim was shot as he sat in a lorry on the Lower Newtownards Road in Belfast in July 2005.

Following his conviction a professional disciplinary tribunal ruled that the solicitor, who operated from offices in Limavady, should be banned from practising law.

Sandhu, who is due for release in May next year, served the first part of his sentence at Maghaberry Prison before being moved to Magilligan.

A further transfer to the more relaxed Foyleview regime could see him allowed out for town visits or even periods of home leave.

The High Court was told today that he will be informed early next week whether he can make the switch.

Sandhu's lawyer, Paul Dougan of John J Rice and Co, said: "We are relieved that having the matter listed has expedited the prison decision to deliver the outcome of the board hearing. 

"We await that decision with interest and will review our client's position as and when it is known."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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