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Man jailed for slashing neck of doctor loses challenge over release periods

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The 31-year-old received a 10-year sentence for trying to murder the medic at Craigavon Area Hospital Picture: PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST

The 31-year-old received a 10-year sentence for trying to murder the medic at Craigavon Area Hospital Picture: PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST

The 31-year-old received a 10-year sentence for trying to murder the medic at Craigavon Area Hospital Picture: PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST

A man jailed for slashing the neck of a doctor has lost his High Court challenge to being denied periods of release due to Covid-19.

Lawyers for Michael Larkin claimed a decision to suspend a pre-release testing programme was irrational and breached his human rights.

But a judge dismissed his case today after finding that prison authorities had a discretion to ensure safety during the pandemic.

Larkin (31) received a 10-year sentence for trying to murder the medic at Craigavon Area Hospital.

He 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.

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Under the terms of his extended licence sentence responsibility for deciding if and when he can be released lay with the Parole Commissioners.

Legal action was brought after he was refused direct release in December 2020.

The challenge centred on an alleged failure by the Prison Service to permit him pre-release testing to demonstrate he is suitable for life outside jail.

The court was told he successfully completed one period in February 2020, being accompanied by prison staff for a shopping trip in Belfast and a walk along the shoreline in Holywood, Co Down.

But the pre-testing programme was interrupted a month later due to the Covid-19 crisis.

It was claimed that the blanket suspension was disproportionate and arbitrarily preventing his release.

Counsel for Larkin argued that a forensic psychologist supported the view that he was eligible for release and posed no imminent risk of violence.

According to the expert's assessment, he is unlikely to act impulsively or recklessly.

Although Larkin has since been let out of prison on licence, Mr Justice Scoffield confirmed that his application for judicial review was being dismissed.

Full reasons will be set out in a judgment to be issued at a later stage.

Outside court, Larkin's solicitor said the case was now resolved.

Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law added: "Our client has been released on a fresh decision from the Parole Commission, but we always believed he should have been released earlier - especially in circumstances where pre-release testing was not available due to Covid.

"We will consider whether there is a point of appeal on receipt of the full judgment."


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