‘Vindictive’ decision to intern released prisoner

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Less than 36 hours after he was released at the end of his sentence, Derry republican Neil Hegarty has been seized by PSNI at his home in the Creggan area and returned to the high-security Maghaberry prison in County Antrim.

Mr Hegarty, a father-of-three, was jailed in December 2012 for taking part in armed actions but was released on licence on Monday. He was told on Wednesday that his released licence had been revoked and soon found himself back on the Roe 4 wing at Maghaberry.

His summary re-internment by British Direct Ruler James Brokenshire follows that of another republican prisoner, Gabriel Mackie, less than three weeks ago.

Mr Hegarty’s lawyer Ciaran Shiels said that the Six County Department of Justice had suddenly imposed additional licence conditions, such as a nightly curfew and electronic monitoring by way of an ankle tag.

“These additional conditions were accepted under protest and we were given instructions to legally challenge their imposition in due course,” he said.

He noted that when they visited Strand Road barracks in Derry on Wednesday afternoon to sign a register, no issues were raised. During the visit, Mr Hegarty informed the PSNI of plans to cross the border to Donegal next week for a short break, and again no issues were raised.

“Mr Hegarty was then arrested from his family home at 10.45pm on Wednesday night where he was in line with his curfew conditions,” he said.

“Our view is that this is an appalling decision which is totally offensive to any principle of fairness or natural and justice which requires the urgent scrutiny of the High Court.”

He said there was no possibly justification for revoking his client’s release licence.

“Neil Hegarty was specifically found by the Crown Court not to be a dangerous defendant. He was found not to present as posing a risk of harm to the public.

He was granted three periods of Compassionate Temporary Release during his incarceration into my care when his father-in-law and father passed away, to include an overnight stay in Cork for his father’s funeral. In relation to all of these releases, he abided by all terms imposed and always returned to custody early.”

Mr Shiels said he is making an emergency application for a Judicial Review to challenge the decision to revoke Mr Hegarty’s licence.

Saoradh described the action as “vindictive and quite clearly premeditated” and “yet another example of continuing attacks on the republican community by British State Agencies”.

“Neil Hegarty is an unashamed Irish Republican, who has been returned to captivity by a foreign government with no right to be in Ireland,” they said. “He is yet another victim of internment via revocation of licence and should be released back to his family immediately.”

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