McLaughlin trial date to be set

Damien McLaughlin
Damien McLaughlin

A trial date is to be set in a fortnight for a man charged in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black.

Damien McLaughlin (41), of Kilmascally Road, in east Co Tyrone, was due to stand trial last year but absconded.

Picture of murdered prison officer David Black

Picture of murdered prison officer David Black

McLaughlin had previously pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of Mr Black on November 1, 2012, two charges of possessing articles for use in terrorism, two counts of preparation for acts of terrorism and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, Mr Justice Colton asked why no trial date had yet been set in the case.

Defence barrister Desmond Hutton told the judge that McLaughlin – who did not appear for the brief proceedings – had been “abroad”.

McLaughlin absconded while on bail and fled to the Republic of Ireland last year.

Prosecution counsel Terence Mooney QC said that McLaughlin’s extradition from the Republic had been approved late last year.

The High Court in Dublin made a ruling on December 2 to have the defendant formally extradited.

Mr Mooney said: “He appeared at Armagh Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

“He was remanded in custody to your Lordship’s court today. He has already been arraigned on the charges.”

The prosecution counsel said he had no objections to a defence application to adjourn proceedings for a fortnight to allow for further discussions between McLaughlin and his legal representatives.

Mr Justice Colton said he would list the case for Friday, January 26, 2018, when a date for trial would be set.

McLaughlin was on bail at an address in west Belfast when he went on the run.

Police called at the address in December 2016 but he could not be found and milk in the fridge was a month out of date.

His disappearance provoked a public outcry.

The failure by the PSNI to carry out regular bail checks on McLaughlin is currently the subject of a Police Ombudsman investigation.

After a cross-border manhunt, McLaughlin was eventually arrested by armed Gardai on March 2, 2017, while walking along a street in Donegal, en route to Letterkenny.