Belfast Telegraph

Two PSNI officers disciplined for 'failings' over Damien McLaughlin's bail conditions

By Mark Edwards

Two PSNI officers have been disciplined after a dissident republican skipped bail and absconded to the Republic of Ireland.

Damien McLaughlin, whose trial for the murder of prison officer David Black collapsed last week, absconded from Northern Ireland in November 2016, sparking a massive cross-border manhunt.

The 41-year-old, who had been on bail since 2014, did not flee until his bail conditions were eased.

He was eventually arrested by armed Garda in Donegall on March 2, 2017.

Attempts by his lawyers to stop his extradition to Northern Ireland failed and he was sent back to Maghaberry Prison.

A police ombudsman investigation was then launched.

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David Black with daughter Kyra and Kyle at David’s 52nd birthday in August 2012

A spokesperson for the police ombudsman told the Belfast Telegraph: “We have completed our investigation, which found failings in aspects of the police handling of Mr McLaughlin’s bail conditions.

“These included breakdowns in communication, as well as failures to adhere to police processes and in the assessment of information on police systems. As a result, the bail conditions were not effectively monitored and enforced.

“We made recommendations to the PSNI, which have resulted in two police officers being disciplined.

“Mr Black’s family have been informed of our findings.

“The Police Ombudsman has also endorsed action taken by police to prevent a recurrence, following an internal police review of what went wrong.”

The PSNI told the Belfast Telegraph it had nothing further to add to the ombudsman’s statement.

Mr Black, a warden at Maghaberry Prison, was shot as he drove to work on the M1 in County Armagh in November 2012.

McLaughlin, of Kilmascally Road, Dungannon, was arrested a few months after the murder. He denied all charges and was granted bail in May 2014, despite the PPS opposing bail.

In March 2016 his bail was varied so that his bail address could be changed from one in the Ardboe area of Tyrone, to one in west Belfast.

Sureties of £750 were agreed to to secure his release. A court ordered the removal of McLaughlin's tag in December 2014, despite the objections of both the PPS and police.

The last time McLaughlin signed for bail before skipping is understood to have been in November 2016.

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

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Yvonne and Kyle Black, widow and son of David Black, outside court

His disappearance while on bail provoked a public outcry from Mr Black’s family who said they “felt let down and hurt by the justice system.”

McLaughlin’s trial later collapsed after a judge ruled evidence obtained by Garda was unsafe. Prosecutor’s decided not to appeal the ruling.

In all McLaughlin was cleared of the six terror charges he denied, including aiding and abetting, in the Irish Republic, the murder in 2012, having the Toyota Carmy car used by the gunmen in the M1 drive-by shooting, and IRA membership.

Mr Black’s son Kyle said after seeing McLaughlin walk free: “To hear today that the trial had collapsed was just devastating. The wound over time scabs over a bit but in the last few weeks, especially today, that scab has been pulled off and it is incredibly raw.”

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