A human rights watchdog has won High Court permission to challenge the denial of access to hearings on whether to release Old Bailey bomber Marian Price.
The Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) was on Wednesday granted leave to seek a judicial review of decisions by the Northern Ireland Parole Commissioners.
Its case will now proceed to a full hearing later this year.
CAJ claim it was unlawful for the Parole Commissioners’ to refuse to let it attend Price’s hearings as an observer.
Even though the veteran republican has since been released from custody, the body rejected claims that its challenge is now academic.
Barrister Dessie Hutton, for CAJ, argued that it forms part of a wider policy of refusing applications to attend Parole Commissioner hearings.
Mr Hutton told the court his client had particular concerns about the case of Price, who is also known as Marian McGlinchey.
The 59-year-old spent two years behind bars before being freed in May.
Price served a jail sentence along with her late sister Dolours for their part in the IRA car bomb attack on London’s Old Bailey courts in 1973 in which one man died and more than 200 people were injured.
Her licence had been revoked in 2011 by the then Secretary of State Owen Patterson.
Mr Hutton set out how the CAJ had applied to be present as an observer at a number of hearings held before the Parole Commissioners determined she could be released again.
Permitting its attendance would have ensured an additional layer of transparency and accountability, it was contended.
Although information discussed in the hearings is confidential and cannot be disclosed, the barrister claimed being able to sit in on them would help form opinions.
Counsel for the Parole Commissioners insisted, however, that the challenge has been rendered academic.
He also pointed out that in the case of Price, she was represented by a firm of solicitors along with senior and junior counsel.
The privacy surrounding the hearings meant CAJ could do nothing with any information it obtained from observing, the judge was told.
However, Mr Justice Treacy ruled on Wednesday that the legal challenge has enough merit to clear the first stage.
He said: “The CAJ contend, and I accept, that the refusal which is subject of the present proceedings arguably seems part of a wider policy of refusing applications of this nature to attend Parole Commissioner hearings.
“Therefore I’m persuaded that it’s appropriate to grant leave in this case.”
The judge listed the challenge for a full hearing in December.