Bail scandal: DOJ started bail decisions review in October

Damien McLaughlin
Damien McLaughlin

The Department of Justice has revealed it is gathering facts on bail decisions following the furore around the disappearance of a man due to stand trial in relation to the murder of David Black.

It was made public last Friday that Ardboe man Damien McLaughlin - who was bailed on terror-related charges - had not been seen by police since November, despite being ordered to sign at a police station five days a week.

It later emerged that it took police four weeks to visit his bail address, which was found empty.

And today, we learned police did not notify the Public Prosecution Service about this development until 11 days later.

The Black family have said they feel let down by the justice system that, dad and husband David was murdered for being a part of in 2012.

McLaughlin, 40, was due to stand trial next month on charges of aiding and abetting Mr Black’s murder, possessing items to be used in terrorism and belonging to an illegal organisation.

Police have apologised to the Black family, but said they did oppose bail in relation to McLaughlin as well as subsequent changes which were passed through the courts.

In response to our request for a comment on the ongoing situation, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice said: "In line with the recommendation in the Fresh Start Panel report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland, the Department of Justice has commenced a review, initially to establish facts about bail decisions."

We later learned this began in October.

"Should that review and the analysis of its findings demonstrate any gaps in the law, phase two of this work will consider whether further measures are needed. That review is ongoing," they added.

"The review will establish facts about bail decisions in Northern Ireland. As part of this DOJ will consult with counterparts in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland on the application of bail in serious cases in those jurisdictions, drawing comparisons where possible."