Wednesday, 11 January 2017

ĎA COMPLETE COP OUTí! thumbnailMurdered Cookstown Prison Officer David Black.

Fury at Police silence as Ardboe man linked to murder of Prison Officer David Black is missing since November

THE PSNI have refused to answer any questions after it emerged that an on-bail terror suspect facing charges linked to the murder of a Cookstown Prison Officer has not been seen by Police in almost two months!

Damien Joseph McLaughlin from Ardboe, is due to stand trial in February on terrorist charges including supplying a car to dissident republicans who murdered Prison Officer David Black in November 2012.

Despite his bail conditions stating that McLaughlin must check in a Police Station five times a week, it was revealed at a court hearing on Friday last that the accused has not signed bail since 18th November.

McLaughlin has pleaded not guilty to charges including aiding and abetting murder.

Local anger has been expressed at the news with the Police stance described as "farcical" and "a complete cop out".

Leading the attack on the PSNI, Dungannon Peer Lord Morrow demanded answers on the monitoring of the Ardboe accused.

Lord Morrow described the process of monitoring a Dungannon man on bail for terrorist charges as farcical and he has written to the Chief Constable over the matter.

Stated the Peer: "Damien McLaughlin is due to stand trial in relation to the murder of prison officer David Black, but despite being on strict bail  terms, his whereabouts have been unknown to the PSNI since November - yet no arrest warrant was sought and neither the courts nor public were alerted."

The Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA said he has written to the Chief Constable demanding an explanation on bail monitoring and tabled questions to the Minister for Justice on the court process

Lord Morrow continued: "If it were not for the elongated judicial system in Northern Ireland, there is every likelihood McLaughlin's remand in custody pending trial would not have been longer than was necessary and the issue of bail would never have been visited.

“Whilst bail was achieved on strict terms, these were subsequently downgraded and that is questionable given the severity of the charges.

“Yet the terms required McLaughlin to continue to sign with PSNI regularly. When the first occasion was missed, immediate action should have been taken.

“It is disgraceful to learn PSNI have effectively lost this man since November, yet it would appear they did not seek an arrest warrant. This should have been brought to the attention of the first available court. Instead it appears Police went into tailspin in trying to find McLaughlin. Had the alarm been raised earlier, instead of waiting for the next scheduled court appearance, detection and detention could have been possible.

“Not only should PSNI have alerted the courts, there has to be an onus on McLaughlin's legal team to flag up his absence for consultations or instructions.

“The handling of this case, from the granting of bail to the apparent loss of a suspected terrorist is incredulous.

“Northern Ireland sadly became synomous with the word terrorism, yet we are woefully behind when it comes to dealing with suspects and ensuring due process."

Went on Lord Morrow: "I have submitted a number of questions to the Minister for Justice including when action will be taken to seize the sureties put forward as part of McLaughlin's bail.

“In addition I have written to the Chief Constable, to find out exactly how this man was able to vanish with such apparent ease and nothing was done. I want to know why Police did not seek an immediate arrest warrant on the very first bail breach and why this was matter hidden from the public for over six weeks.

“I am calling on the PSNI to explain to the public how this occurred and provide an assurance terrorist suspects are dealt with whilst on bail with equal diligence to all other citizens."

Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United stated: "The Black family are well known to our organisation and they are foremost in our thoughts following the latest revelation in the courts.

"No words will reflect the hurt that will be going through their minds and hearts and all those who loved and cared for David.

"Let's remember this - Damien McLaughlin has been in custody for nearly two years, but has yet to stand trial.

“McLaughlin was granted permission over last Summer by a court, skipped his curfew and stopped signing bail for three days while enjoying a mini break in Fermanagh.

“On the first day of his relaxed bail conditions, McLaughlin was photographed fronting a republican anti-internment protest in west Belfast alongside convicted terrorists," Mr Donaldson also claimed.

"If he is in this jurisdiction or the Republic of Ireland, then he needs captured and fast. And if he is outside of this island, then he must also be located, extradited and imprisoned without delay."

Mr Donaldson added: "We call on the Justice Minister to make an urgent statement on these matters. What is currently happening within our criminal justice system is disgusting.

"When oh when will the political, criminal justice and social structures of this country ever stand up for and stand by the innocent, those whose lives have been ravaged by evil?" concluded Mr Donaldson. 

Walter Millar, TUV Cookstown, described the latest incident as a debacle: "Many will rightly ask if the authorities are committed to tackle the threat posed by republicans.

“The alarming fact in this case is that Damien McLaughlin has not been seen by Police since November, but it was well publicised that this individual was allowed to have a break in a Co Fermanagh hotel.

“The facts in this case are beyond belief and yet at no stage did we read in the news or hear of a Police manhunt to find out the whereabouts of Damian McLaughlin and have him arrested.        

“As unionists read daily of legacy inquests  surrounding  the deaths of IRA terrorists and the witch hunt and  arrest of British soldiers yet see the incompetent and 'softly softly' approach the Government and PSNI have in dealing with republicans, is it any wonder many have no longer any faith in our policing and justice powers In Northern Ireland," concluded Mr Millar.

East Antrim DUP MLA Sammy Wilson described the PSNI response as "a complete cop out".

Ulster Unionist MLA for Mid-Ulster, Sandra Overend, has described it as disgraceful and called for a rethink of how the judicial system deals with this type of suspect.

Mrs Overend stated: "I wholeheartedly agree with my Ulster Unionist colleague, Tom Elliott MP's comments. Those responsible for what appears to be a relaxed and ad hoc process have clearly shown no sympathy or respect towards the family of David Black.

“Anyone charged with murder in some other countries outside Northern Ireland would be incarcerated for as long as necessary to allow judicial proceedings to take place, however in Northern Ireland there seems to be a habit of allowing people charged with serious crimes such as murder to have a relaxed time outside prison."

“The authorities have serious questions to answer in this case and I feel that the judicial system needs to rethink the process of how terrorism suspects are managed. My thoughts at this time are with the David Black's family, who have been put into the public eye due to the failings of the judicial system."


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