Man to stand trial in connection with prison officer’s murder

Pacemaker Press 16-09-2016: 
Damien McLaughlin leaves Laganside Court on Friday, Charged in connection with the murder of  prison officer David Black  who was shot dead while driving to work in Maghaberry Prison in 2012.
Picture Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 16-09-2016: Damien McLaughlin leaves Laganside Court on Friday, Charged in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black who was shot dead while driving to work in Maghaberry Prison in 2012. Picture Pacemaker

A CO Tyrone man is to stand trial next year charged over his alleged involvement in the dissident republican murder of prisoner officer David Black.

At Belfast Crown Court today, Damien Joseph McLaughlin (40), of Kilmascally Road, Dungannon, denied four charges he faces over the murder of Mr Black.

Mr Black, a father-of-two, was driving from his home in Cookstown, Co Tyrone to the high security Maghaberry jail when he was ambushed on the M1 motorway in Co Armagh by republican gunmen on November 1, 2012

A group calling itself the ‘New IRA’ later claimed responsibility for the murder of the 52-year-old prison officer.

Today McLaughlin pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting Mr Black’s murder, having a Toyota Camry car for use in terrorism, preparing a terrorist act by starting and moving the vehicle which the killers used, and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

McLaughlin’s defence barrister Desmond Hutton said he was expecting to engage the services of an expert witness to deal with the “interview techniques adopted by An Garda Siochana’’ in the case.

Prosecuting counsel Terence Mooney QC said a number of witnesses from the Republic of Ireland were “reluctant to travel to Northern Ireland’’ to give evidence at the trial.

He told Mr Justice Treacy that an application may be made to “take evidence from these witnesses by way of commission in the Republic of Ireland’’.

The court was told that there was a legal precedent for taking such evidence by commission from such witnesses.

The legal case related to publican Owen McCarron Smyth (29) who was on trial in Belfast in the early 1980s for procurring the killers of former Stormont Parliament Speaker Sir Norman Stronge and his son James.

The men were shot dead at the their Tynan Abbey home near the Co Armagh border by a gang of up to ten men om January 21, 1981.

McCarron Smyth’s trial transferred to Dublin’s Special Criminal Court for one day to allow defence witnesses to give their evidence to the Republic’s High Court judge Mr Justice Liam Hamilton.

Mr Mooney QC said the judge at McCarron Smyth’s Belfast trial, the then Mr Justice Brian Hutton, travelled to Dublin for the hearing to take evidence from the witnesses.

He added that the exercise of travelling to Dublin to evidence from witnesses may add more time to the trial.

Mr Justice Treacy listed the trial to start on Monday, February 20, 2017.

The case will be reviewed again in four weeks time.

McLaughlin was released on continuing bail ahead of the start of his trial which is expected to last six weeks.