David Black murder getaway car suspect loses appeal against trial

David Black's black Audi A4 car lies in a ditch off the M1 motorway  after the attack.
David Black's black Audi A4 car lies in a ditch off the M1 motorway after the attack.

The only man charged in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black was blocked from asking the Supreme Court to overturn an order for him to stand trial.

On Tuesday, senior judges in Belfast refused Damien McLaughlin’s application after rejecting claims his case raised a point of law of general public importance.

Damien McLaughlin

Damien McLaughlin

Lawyers for the 39-year-old claim he was unfairly denied the chance to cross-examine a key prosecution witness.

They also contended that a district judge who committed him for trial applied the wrong legal test.

McLaughlin, from the Kilmascally Road in Dungannon, is facing four charges in relation to the prison officer’s killing.

They include aiding and abetting his murder, having a Toyota Camry car for use in terrorism, preparing a terrorist act by starting and moving the vehicle which the killers used, and belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

The prosecution alleges McLaughlin transported the Toyota car across the Irish border on the eve of the attack.

In June last year a preliminary investigation resulted in the district judge ordering him to be returned for trial.

McLaughlin’s legal team launched judicial review proceedings against decisions to admit hearsay evidence and to return him for trial.

Their challenge centred on statements from a man who was arrested and interviewed by the Garda as a suspect in the murder plot. He was not called as a witness during the preliminary investigation.

Counsel for McLaughlin, who is currently on bail, argued that there is a statutory right to cross-examine witnesses before trial.

A prosecution barrister countered that the proceedings were a form of satellite litigation.

Last month the High Court dismissed the judicial review challenge after ruling there was nothing irrational or perverse about the process.

McLaughlin’s legal team returned on Tuesday to seek permission from judges to take their case to the Supreme Court in London.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “We have decided we are not going to certify a point of law of general public importance... the magistrate did not err in the approach in this case.”