Armagh bomb-charge prisoner loses challenge against parole verdict

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A Malaysian-born man who has served his minimum five-year term for transporting a pipe bomb for terrorists has lost his legal challenge to being kept in prison.

William Wong, 27, was seeking to judicially review a decision that he should remain behind bars after failing to convince parole commissioners he is completely reformed and fully regrets his actions.

But a High Court judge rejected claims that those wanting assurances he will not succumb to the influence of dissident republicans had applied the wrong test.

Mr Justice O’Hara said: “At its heart the applicant’s problem is that his own evidence that he had ‘wised up’ was not enough to satisfy the panel.

“That was a decision that was open to the panel to reach legitimately.”

Wong, from Dalton Close in Armagh, was arrested in March 2010 after police chasing him saw a plastic bag being thrown into a garden at Niall’s Crescent in the city.

The bag was later found to contain a device with a fuse attached which an expert described as a lethal anti-personnel weapon with the potential to maim or kill.

Wong was wearing a surgical glove when searched by officers. Another two pairs of latex gloves were discovered in his pocket.

He eventually pleaded guilty to having a pipe bomb with intent to endanger life or cause injury to property.

An indeterminate sentence was imposed, meaning it will be up to the parole commissioners to determine when he should be released after completing the minimum five-year tariff.

In March his application to be released was rejected because they were not satisfied his imprisonment was no longer necessary for public protection.

The commissioners concluded his explanations that he had made a mistake, has since “wised up” and doesn’t want to go back to jail did not got far enough.

They took into account how Wong was held in the separated wing of the prison regime, putting him into contact with associates likely to support dissident activity.

Challenging the decision, Wong’s barrister Fiona Doherty QC argued that the panel erred in reaching its conclusion.

She claimed it applied the wrong test by requiring to be convinced that he was totally reformed and fully regretted his actions.

But although Mr Justice O’Hara described her arguments as “at first blush attractively”, he ruled that the commissioners had correctly identified what progress Wong needed to make and maintain.

Dismissing the challenge, the judge confirmed: “I find there no grounds on which to grant leave to apply for a judicial review.”