Legal challenge to airport harassment

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A north Belfast community activist has won High Court permission to challenge a decision by the PSNI to detain and interrogate him at an airport.

Lawyers for republican Aidan Ferguson said so-called anti-terrorist legislation had been unlawfully used to stop him on his return from a trip to Spain.

He was granted leave to seek a judicial review in a case brought against the PSNI. Mr Ferguson issued proceedings over an incident at Belfast airport in November 2019.

The Ardoyne man was approached on arrival by the PSNI who knew his name and gave the impression they were stopping him for specific reasons. But over a bizarre 20-minute period, he was asked for his views on the border through Ireland, Brexit and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Over the course of the questioning, Mr Ferguson was not free to leave until he answered, nor was he able to seek legal advice.

His legal team are challenging both the decision to stop and question him and a subsequent refusal to provide any records of the detention. They argued that the PSNI acted unlawfully and without justification, using powers which breached human rights.

A judge this week granted leave to seek a judicial review after the PSNI presented no opposition.

Outside court his solicitor, Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law, said: “We believe that Schedule 7 powers are being used unlawfully at airports and ports by the PSNI, and have been successful in moving to a full hearing on this matter.

“We believe that our client’s detention for the purpose of questioning without access to legal advice was unlawful.”

PAYOUT FOR PRISON ABUSE

In other legal news, a former republican prisoner is to receive £5,000 compensation in an action over how prison authorities forced him to share a wing with potential killers at Maghaberry.

it emerged that other prisoners on the mixed wing of the prison where Luke O’Neill was held were offered £50,000 “to do in” the Lurgan man while he was jailed on remand there.

His lawyers pointed out that Mr O’Neill should have been kept at Roe House – a segregated landing for republican prisoners – instead of Quoile House, with the jail’s general population, where he was forced to live in virtual isolation for his own safety.

The payment forms only part of a longer resolution reached in the 27-year-old’s challenge. His lawyer Gavin Booth said his client’s rights had been vindicated by the award.

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