Bail scandal: Sugden fails to explain week-long wait

Damien McLaughlin
Damien McLaughlin

The justice minister Claire Sugden has failed to offer any explanation as to why it took her seven days to write to the Chief Constable about the disappearance of the sole person facing charges in relation to killing a prison officer.

Damien Joseph McLaughlin, 40 and from Kilmascally Road in east Tyrone, denies four offences linked to the murder in 2012, and had been out on bail since spring 2014.

On January 6, a court was told he had not been seen by police since mid-November last year.

With his trial still listed for February 20, his whereabouts remain unknown.

The News Letter repeatedly pressed the Department of Justice (the DoJ) for comment on the extraordinary scandal in the days following the news of his disappearance.

Eventually, on January 13 (a full week later), Ms Sugden issued a statement voicing concern and regret over the incident.

Despite the huge publicity from the News Letter, it has emerged that it was also not until January 13 that Ms Sugden wrote to the Chief Constable to seek answers about the scandal.

Asked why a week went by before she took this very basic step, the DoJ simply failed to answer.