Prisoner refused permission to move to republican wing at Maghaberry

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland  - 16th November 2009  - Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye - General views of H.M. Prison Maghaberry which was closed to visitors on Thursday and Friday last week. Police aided the prison service in a search of the jail which resulted in finding items which could be used in the making of a bomb.  Prisoners were locked in their cells for the duration of search.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th November 2009 - Picture by Jonathan Porter / Press Eye - General views of H.M. Prison Maghaberry which was closed to visitors on Thursday and Friday last week. Police aided the prison service in a search of the jail which resulted in finding items which could be used in the making of a bomb. Prisoners were locked in their cells for the duration of search.

A Lurgan man currently on remand on a charge of trying to murder police officers lost a High Court challenge yesterday to move him from an integrated area of the prison where he fears for his safety.

Luke O’Neill was granted leave to seek a judicial review concerning a decision by the Prison Service to house him in the integrated Quoile House at Maghaberry.

However, O’Neill and his legal team challenged the decision on the grounds he felt in fear of his life, asking that he be transferred to Roe House - the separated landing for republican inmates.

O’Neill, from Silverwood Green in Lurgan, claimed he had been subject to abusive language and threats from other prisoners. The 23-year old is so concerned for his safety that he refuses to leave his cell and remains in self-imposed isolation.

O’Neill’s legal team have argued that the Prison Service has been dismissive of O’Neill’s concerns regarding his safety.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Colton said that while he acknowledged O’Neill’s situation was “troubling”, he refused the judicial review.

The judge said: “I do not consider that there is sufficient evidence to satisfy the threshold that the applicant has suffered, or will suffer ill treatment.”

O’Neill and three others were arrested last September on offences of attempting to murder police officers, and of possessing explosives. He was remanded in Maghaberry on September 27 last year, and since then he had seeking a transfer to Roe House.

His application for transfer was refused on October 26 last year. He was granted his own cell, but will not leave it due to safety fears. O’Neill highlighted an incident on October 2 last year when a malfunction resulted in the doors in Quoile House being unlocked. O’Neill said that during this, fellow inmates were shouting verbal abuse and one prisoner attempted to enter his cell.

Mr Justice Colton said the governor of Maghaberry swore an affidavit last November which detailed O’Neill’s fears as “not based in reality”.

Refusing the judicial review, the judge expressed hope that the authorities at Maghaberry “will continue to monitor the applicant closely”.