Republican prisoner challenges strip searches

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A republican prisoner has won High Court permission to challenge strip searches inflicted on him before and after attending a hospital appointment.

Kieran ‘Zack’ Smyth was unlawfully handcuffed by prison staff who then spied on him throughout medical consultations and tests.

The 62-year-old has been granted leave to seek a judicial review into the degrading breaches of his right to privacy.

Mr Smyth, from west Belfast, was interned in March 2020 by the British Direct Ruler based on intelligence which claimed he was a threat to “British national security”. In July last year he was re-released following a decision by the Parole Commissioners, but this was revoked again weeks later.

Smyth was declared to be “unlawfully at large” and he was arrested in north Belfast in December and again jailed at Maghaberry.

His latest legal challenge against Justice Minister Naomi Long centres on his abusive treatment in connection with a medical appointment in March this year.

He said prison authorities breached his human rights by subjecting him to “degrading and stressful” strip searches while travelling to and from the hospital.

“I do not think it was at all appropriate that I was subjected to this before attending hospital for tests on my heart,” he said.

Mr Smyth said he was also unlawfully restrained by prison screws who disturbingly watched his private medical consultations.

Justice Colton granted leave to apply for judicial review and listed the case for full hearing in October.

Welcoming the decision, Mr Smyth’s legal firm called for an end to the degrading practice of strip searches.

Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law said: “There are more humane ways for the prison to conduct security checks. Prisoners should also have a right to privacy in medical consultations at all times.”

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