Belfast Telegraph

Trial date to be set for man charged over prison officer David Black murder

By John Cassidy

A trial date is to be set in two weeks time for a man charged in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black.

Damien McLaughlin (41), of Kilmascally Road, Dungannon, was due to stand trial last year but breached his bail and absconded from Northern Ireland.

McLaughlin had previously pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of Mr Black on November 1, 2012, two charges of possessing articles for use in terrorism, two counts of preparation for acts of terrorism and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday Mr Justice Colton asked why no trial date had yet been set in the case.

Defence barrister Desmond Hutton told the the judge that McLaughlin - who didn't appear for Friday's brief proceedings - had been "abroad'' .

Prosecution counsel Terence Mooney QC said that McLaughlin's extradition from the Republic of Ireland had been approved late last year.

The High Court in Dublin made a ruling on December 2 to have the defendant formally extradited back to Northern Ireland.

Added Mr Mooney: "He appeared at Armagh Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, December 12, 2016. He was remanded in custody to your Lordship's court today [Friday]. He has already been arraigned on the charges.''

The prosecution counsel said he had no objections to a defence application to adjourn proceedings for a fortnight to allow for further discussions between McLaughlin and his legal representatives.

Mr Justice Colton said he would list the case for Friday, January 26, 2018, when a date for trial would be set.

McLaughlin was on bail at an address in west Belfast when he went on the run.

Police called at the address in December 2016 but he could not be found and milk in the fridge was four weeks out of date.

His disappearance while on bail provoked a public outcry from David Black's family who said they "felt let down and hurt by the justice system''.

Mr Black's widow Yvonne, daughter Kyra and son Kyle were later visited by the PSNI officer leading the manhunt for McLaughlin, Detective Chief Supt Raymond Murray.

DCS Murray said he had visited the Black family "to offer sincere apologies on behalf of the PSNI for the stress and worry this situation is creating for them" and provided "reassurance of the steps police are taking to locate the whereabouts of Damien McLaughlin''.

The failure by the PSNI to carry out regular bail checks on McLaughlin is currently the subject of a Police Ombudsman investigation.

Following a massive cross-border manhunt, McLaughlin was eventually arrested by armed Gardai on March 2, 2017, while walking along a street in Ramelton, en route to Letterkenny.

He failed to stop his extradition to Northern Ireland with his lawyers telling the High Court in Dublin that he could be "subjected to inhuman and degrading conditions'' if he was sent back to Maghaberry prison.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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