| 6.3°C Belfast

Man held over mortar bombs seizure 'under pressure to become informer'

A man in custody over the seizure of four mortar bombs is being put under pressure to become an informer, the High Court heard today.

Gary McDaid claimed his bid to be moved onto the republican wing of HMP Maghaberry has been blocked as part of repeated intelligence services attempts to recruit him.

His lawyers alleged that a risk assessment used to keep him within the general prison population was a ruse designed to ensure he remains easily accessible.

Details emerged as he cleared the first stage in a legal challenge to being refused a transfer to Roe House, the separated regime within Maghaberry.

Judicial review proceedings brought against the Secretary of State are also now being widened to include the police.

McDaid (37) from Glenowen Park in Londonderry, is currently remanded in custody accused in connection with the discovery of mortar bombs in a van stopped in the city in March.

He is one of two men charged with having explosives with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to cause an explosion, and having a van for terrorist purposes.

McDaid, who maintains his complete innocence, alleged a series of approaches were made to him at both Antrim Serious Crime Suite and in Maghaberry.

In a sworn statement lodged in court he alleged separate contacts from a schoolteacher, a blonde woman, and assorted intelligence officers.

He claimed to have been asked to turn "Queen's evidence" against others under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) in return for a reduced sentence.

Various emotional techniques were used to try and get him to agree, such as telling him to think of his children, according to his affidavit.

Refusing all of the alleged approaches, he stated at one stage: "I shouted out to the jailer that I wanted this man out and that I would drown myself in the toilet if they came back."

McDaid said he asked to be moved to Roe House for his own safety, believing it to be the only part of the prison he would not be at risk due to the media exposure surrounding his case.

His application was allegedly blocked due to his life being in danger from republicans on the wing - an assertion rejected by him.

Since then he has been moved into isolated conditions and said he went onto a so-called dirty protest to avoid harassment and intimidation from other inmates when going down to dinner.

"These intelligence services are clearly prepared to engage in shams and ruses in order to pressurise me to agree to their proposal that I enter into a SOCPA agreement," he said in the statement.

He is seeking a declaration that the Secretary of State's decision to refuse to allow his transfer to Roe House was unreasonable, unlawful and should be quashed.

McDaid was granted leave to seek a judicial review today without any arguments from government lawyers at this stage.

The case will be mentioned in court again next month.

Following the hearing McDaid's lawyer Ciaran Shiels, of Madden & Finucane Solicitors, said: "The asserted intelligence in this case which is relied upon to block Mr McDaid's move is a fabrication manufactured by those people who seek to pressurise him and which has the effect of keeping him in the general prison population where he might be more easily accessed by those persons.

"Our client should be transferred immediately to the republican wing at Roe House and the ongoing refusal to move him there is unlawful."

Belfast Telegraph