Mid-Ulster Ulster Unionist MLA, Sandra Overend, along with her Ulster Unionist Party colleagues, Doug Beattie MLA and Roy Beggs MLA, has brought a motion to the Assembly calling for a review of bail policy in cases of terrorism and murder.
This followed the revelation that Damien Joseph McLaughlin, who had been on bail charged with offences linked to the murder of Cookstown Prison Officer David Black, had not been seen by police since November.
Mrs Overend said: “Earlier this month I was shocked to learn, through media reports, that a man accused in connection with the murder of David Black has not been seen by the police since November, whilst on police bail.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that this man – a man that has already made headlines, when the authorities previously allowed him to attend a spa break in Fermanagh – was allowed to disappear while on bail. Those responsible for this inexcusable situation have demonstrated a lack of respect towards the family of the late David Black.
“My thoughts and sympathies continue to be with the Black family, who have been put into the public eye once again due to the failings of the judicial system, the very system in which he served so faithfully.
“I have written to both the Chief Constable and the Justice Minister regarding both the clear failings identified in this case, as well as the wider issue of the policy of granting bail to suspects accused of offences relating to terrorism and murder. However, along with my party colleagues, I felt that it was important that the deep concern at this case, and the wider bail policy, was put on record in the Assembly Chamber.
“The appalling failings demonstrated here have understandably caused much anger across Mid-Ulster, an area which has suffered more than most at the hands of terrorists. Faith in the justice system has been damaged, particularly amongst victims.
“It is my firm belief that terrorist suspects should remain in custody for as long as is necessary to allow judicial proceedings to be completed. Our motion, which called on the Justice Minister to reflect on the failings clearly identified in this case, and review how terrorism suspects are managed within the justice system, received the majority support of the Assembly this afternoon.”
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