Belfast Telegraph

PSNI car reg case man loses bid to overturn rules around travel

The west Belfast man served time for having police officers' car registration numbers
The west Belfast man served time for having police officers' car registration numbers

A west Belfast man jailed for possessing police officers' car registration numbers has lost his legal challenge to being forced to inform the authorities about trips outside the UK.

Anthony John McDonnell claimed the foreign travel notification requirements imposed under counter-terrorism legislation unlawfully restrains his right to free movement within the European Union.

But High Court judges held that the need for public protection outweighed any inhibition on his travel arrangements.

In December 2013 McDonnell was convicted of five counts of having information likely to be of use to terrorists.

The 49-year-old Irish citizen, with a previous address in the Ballymurphy area of Belfast, was found to be in possession of security force members' vehicle registration details.

He served half of a three years and six months sentence in custody before being released on licence.

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

It means he must give inform police in advance of any proposed trip of three days or more outside the UK.

A further obligation involves confirming his return within three days. Any failure to comply would be a criminal offence.

McDonnell wants to continue visiting the Republic of Ireland for family reasons.

The court heard that during school holidays he regularly takes his children to stay at a relative's caravan in Omeath, Co Louth.

Although trips took place without problem, a difficulty in recording his return occurred in June 2017.

McDonnell then issued judicial review proceedings against the British Home Secretary, 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 contended.

Ruling on the case, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: "The factors at play in this case are the important (EU) Treaty right to freedom of movement and the important public right to be protected from acts of terrorism."

According to his assessment the case involved a "modest intrusion" on McDonnell's entitlements.

Dismissing the challenge, the judge confirmed: "When balancing the need for public protection, which is the legitimate aim of the notification requirements, against any inhibiting factor in having the go through the physical procedures associated with those requirements, we are entirely satisfied that the balance comes down firmly in favour of protection."

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