Belfast Telegraph

Serial robber wins legal battle over imprisonment

Belfast High Court.
Belfast High Court.

By Alan Erwin

A serial robber who twice targeted the same pharmacy has won a legal battle over his continued imprisonment.

The High Court ruled that Parole Commissioners applied the wrong test in dealing with Mark Patrick Toal's latest bid to be released from prison.

Toal's case is now set to be considered again by a further panel later this month.

In 2012 the 34-year-old, was jailed for eight years for an armed raid on the pharmacy at Carrick Hill in north Belfast the previous year.

He had entered brandishing a bread knife and demanding the chemist hand over cash and pills.

Toal left the shop with a quantity of tablets and cash, but was arrested by police a short distance away.

He was convicted of robbery, possessing a bladed article in public, criminal damage, attempted criminal damage and assaulting police.

His criminal record dates from the age of 13 and contains more than 100 further convictions, including an earlier robbery at the pharmacy in 2004.

Earlier this year Parole Commissioners concluded that he still poses a risk of serious harm to the public.

On that basis they were not satisfied that his continued confinement was no longer necessary.

Toal's lawyers sought a judicial review of the decision, arguing that the Commissioners had failed to apply the correct legal test.

Central to proceedings was the assessment of dangerousness, and any reference to a "significant" risk of serious harm.

Mr Justice McCloskey held that there had been an error or law surrounding the Commissioner's decision.

"There has been a failure, readily demonstrated, to formulate the correct legal test," he said.

"I conclude that the applicant's challenge succeeds."

The judge added: "As there is an imminent further listing before a panel of Commissioners, a declaratory, rather than quashing, order would seem the appropriate remedy."

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