Prisons to review poppy policy after loyalist challenge

Mark Harbinson
Mark Harbinson

Prison chiefs are to review their policy on the wearing of poppies by inmates following a legal challenge by a prominent loyalist, the High Court heard on Wednesday.

An adjudication made against Mark Harbinson for refusing to remove the emblem is also to be cancelled, a judge was told.

Harbinson, 46, is serving a three-and-a-half year sentence for sexually abusing a schoolgirl.

He was convicted of molesting the 13-year-old victim and having topless pictures of her on his phone.

The former Orangeman, who came to prominence during the Drumcree marching protest, was jailed in May 2011 following a trial which heard how he spent months grooming his victim.

More than 1,700 text messages were sent between the pair.

Harbinson, from Sheepwalk Road, Stoneyford, Co Antrim was acquitted of separate indecent assault charges, while the jury failed to reach a verdict on further alleged offences.

He launched judicial review proceedings following an incident over wearing a poppy at HMP Magilligan, where he is being held.

But the court was told today that the case has now been resolved.

Peter Coll, for the Prison Service, explained that Harbinson had been held to be wearing the poppy outside the designated period.

“He received an order to remove it, wouldn’t comply with it and was adjudicated accordingly,” the barrister said.

The legal challenge was brought over the determination and its underlying lawfulness.

However, Mr Coll said Harbinson’s application could now be withdrawn.

“The Prison Service are prepared to cancel the adjudication, to alter their records to reflect the fact that the adjudication has been cancelled, and will undertake to reconsider the poppy-wearing policy within HMP Magilligan,” he confirmed.

On that basis Mr Justice Treacy agreed to dismiss the case and award costs in favour of Harbinson.

The judge added: “It seems a fairly comprehensive victory.”

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