Editor's Viewpoint: Killer McConville's legal action is a sickening irony
A case currently before our courts strains our credulity, even in the Alice-in-Wonderland of Northern Ireland.
Dissident republican killer Brendan McConville, from Lurgan and serving a minimum of 25 years for the murder of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll in 2009, has launched a judicial review against the Prison Service over the alleged denial of safe access to him to use online resources while studying for an Open University degree.
Constable Carroll, then 48, was the first PSNI officer to be murdered, shot dead as he answered a 999 call in Craigavon.
John Paul Wootton, from Lurgan, was given a minimum 18-year sentence for his involvement.
McConville, in Maghaberry Prison, is in the final stages of a B.Sc honours degree, ironically in criminology and psychology. He claims the prison authorities are discriminating against him because, as a segregated prisoner, he cannot access online resources which are located in a separate unit.
Mr Justice McCloskey, in adjourning the legal challenge until October, said that this would allow time to consider a report into learning opportunities for segregated prisoners, and also into any potential complaint to the Police Ombudsman.
In today's paper Stephen Carroll's widow, Kate, surely speaks for us all when she asks the pointed question: "Do criminals have more rights than their victims?"
Like the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland has a robust adversarial justice system, with an appeals process.
But there was no right of appeal to a higher court when McConville and his associates set out to ambush and murder Constable Carroll. As Kate Carroll rightly says, her husband's human rights went to the grave with him.
One truth about modern penology, which human rights activists are often slow to admit, is that even life-sentence prisoners like Brendan McConville can live a tolerable existence behind bars.
They have three meals a day, access to other prisoners, and to education facilities.
There is a life to be had in prison. In sharp contrast, Stephen Carroll's life was brutally ended, and his widow Kate's life changed utterly.
Such double-standards are nauseating. Perhaps, as Kate Carroll suggests, this is the time for the pendulum to swing back in favour of victims' rights. The courts are best-placed to start this recalibration towards common sense and justice.