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Republican loses plea for prison move

Luke O'Neill

A Lurgan man currently on remand on a charge of trying to murder police officers has lost a High Court challenge to move him from an integrated area of the prison, where he fears for his safety.

Luke O'Neill was granted leave to seek a judicial review concerning a decision by the prison service to house him in the integrated Quoile House in the prison.

O'Neill and his legal team had challenged the decision on the grounds that he felt in fear of his life, asking that he be transferred to Roe House - the separated landing within the prison for republican inmates.

While on remand, O'Neill, from Silverwood Green in Lurgan, has expressed concerns for his safety and has made the case that whilst in Quoile House he had been subject to abusive language and threats from other prisoners aware of his republican background.

The 23-year-old is so concerned for his safety that he refuses to leave his cell, remains in self-imposed isolation and does not integrate with other prisoners.

O'Neill's legal team have argued that the prison service has been dismissive of O'Neill's concerns regarding his safety.

Giving his judgment in the High Court, Mr Justice Colton said that while he acknowledged O'Neill's situation was "troubling", he refused the judicial review.

The judge said: "I do not consider that there is sufficient evidence to satisfy the threshold that the applicant has suffered, or will suffer, ill treatment.

"Even if this was so, in the circumstances of the case I do not consider that there has been any real failure to take reasonably available measures which would have a real prospect of altering the alleged harm which is said to constitute ill-treatment."

Prior to giving his ruling, Mr Justice Colton was told that the judicial review was challenging the decision made by the Northern Ireland Prison Service, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

O'Neill and three others were arrested last September on offences of attempting to murder police officers, and of possessing explosives.

He was remanded in HMP Maghaberry on September 27, and since then he had been seeking a transfer from Quoile House to Roe House, on the grounds he would be safer on the republican wing.

His application for transfer was officially refused on October 26 when he was told: "you do not fulfil the criteria - your safety may be at risk if you were transferred to the Republican Separated Unit."

Since this decision, O'Neill has refused to leave his cell.

Belfast Telegraph