Dissident republican who had licence revoked is freed

Neil Hegarty had served five years of a 10-year sentence when he was rearrested in December
Neil Hegarty had served five years of a 10-year sentence when he was rearrested in December

A dissident republican who had his prison release licence revoked in December has been released from Maghaberry jail.

Londonderry man Neil Hegarty, 52, was originally released on December 5 having served five years of a 10-year sentence for possession of explosives in 2012.

He was rearrested in the Creggan area around 36 hours later and returned to prison.

The parole commissioner concluded that Hegarty had displayed “wilful disengagement” with the licence process – reported to have been around electronic tagging issues – and recommended the revocation.

During a court challenge to his detention last week, a judge dismissed his legal team’s assertion that the Department of Justice had acted irrationally by authorising his return to prison.

Mr Justice McCloskey said: “The recall determination of the official concerned plainly lay within the range of reasonable decisions available to him.”

However, the judge identified issues in the police dossier provided to the parole commissioner.

Justice McCloskey said: “The gloss in this report relating to ‘wilful disengagement’ and ‘affirmation’ was opaque, unparticularised and, having regard to the totality of the evidence, misleading”.

Asked to explain the reversal decision, both the Department of Justice and parole commissioner said they “do not comment on individual cases.”

Hegarty’s solicitor Ciaran Shiels told the Irish News that his client “should never have been recalled to prison,” and that Mr Hegarty was being advised by his legal team with a view to “forthcoming civil action for unlawful detention”.