The case against the only man still accused in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black who was granted bail on foot of prosecution delays, had his case adjourned for a month on foot of his own lawyer’s application.
On Friday past, a lawyer for 37-year-old Damien Joseph McLaughlin had asked for the case to be put back for six weeks to allow a senior barrister to study covert audio and video surveillance before deciding how the case should proceed.
However District Judge Mervyn Bates told Craigavon Magistrates Court: “I think that’s too long” and instead, adjourned the case for four weeks, indicating that at the next court date, “I want to have decision whether it is a Preliminary Enquiry or mixed committal Preliminary Investigation.”
Both legal steps would potentially commit McLaughlin to the Crown Court for trial but while a PE is usually very short and lasts only minutes, pi’s can take much longer as witnesses may be called and cross examined.
McLaughlin, from the Kilmascally Road in Dungannon, is on bail facing four charges in relation to the murder of prison officer David Black including aiding and abetting his murder, possessing an article, namely a Toyota Camry car for use in terrorism, preparing a terrorist act by starting and moving the Toyota car which the killers used in the murder and a final charge of belonging ir professing to belong to a proscribed organisation, the IRA, with all the offences dated on 31 October and 1 November 2012.
Mr Black was shot dead on the M1 in County Armagh in November 2012 and he was on his way to work at Maghaberry Prison when the attack happened.
The 52-year-old father of two was the first prison officer in Northern Ireland to be murdered in almost 20 years.
The prosecution alleges Mr McLaughlin transported a Toyota Camry across the Irish border on the eve of the attack.
The vehicle in which the killers were travelling was later found burnt out.
At the start of May, McLaughlin was granted High Court bail because of delays in the case and today (fri) his lawyer asked for a six week adjournment, lamenting that the police and PPS “have had 18 months to perfect their case”.
On adjourning the case to the 22 August, Judge Bates retorted that they had been “gathering evidence, not just reading it” and released McLaughlin on continuing bail until then.
Last month at the same court, the PPS dropped a murder charge against 33-year-old Sean McVeigh, from Victoria street in Lurgan while a third defendant, Fiona McFadden (29), from Killough Gardens, also in Lurgan, is on bail charged with perverting the course of justice by providing a false alibi to the alleged killers.