Duffy guilty of wrecking prison cell (UTV)

Prominent republicans including Lurgan man Colin Duffy have been convicted of causing up to £1000 damage to each of their prison cells at Maghaberry.
Each defendant was given a 20 month suspended sentence for causing criminal damage in the high-security jail’s Roe House wing on Monday.

No compensation was ordered because only three of the men, including Duffy, are at liberty and deemed able to make a payment.

Charges were brought against them for damage inflicted on 6 May 2011 as part of a protest against prison conditions.

The cost of repairing each cell ranged from £895 to £1,040.

All of the defendants denied the charge, claiming they were protesting against forced strip-searching.

But they were found guilty at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on the basis on written evidence presented to District Judge Desmond Perry.

He rejected an alleged defence of lawful legal excuse.

Mr Duffy, 44, of Forest Glade, Lurgan and two co-accused, Brendan Conway, from Rosemount Gardens, Belfast; and Damien Joseph McLaughlin, of Lake View Cottages, Dungannon, have been freed from jail in the past 15 months.

But the other men all appeared in the dock with long beards which have been grown as part of their protest.

They included John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, who were convicted earlier this year of murdering PSNI officer Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon in March 2009.

The other accused were Kevin Barry Nolan from Main Street, Blacklion; Gerard James McManus from Fernhill, Letterkenny; Mark McGuigan, Sperrin View Omagh; Sean McConville, Kilwilke Road, Lurgan; Joseph Patrick Barr, Bridge Street, Strabane; and Harry Fitzsimmons whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry.

Following conviction defence barrister Conor O’Kane read out in court a statement on behalf of all of the defendants in which they claimed that an agreement with the Prison Service to end routine strip searches had been breached.

“By May 6, 2011, less than nine months later, all legal and political efforts to bring about the end to this policy had been exhausted,” the statement added.

“The republican prisoners believed they were left with no alternative but to resume their protest.

“It was claimed their action was necessary to prevent continuing “inhumane and degrading treatment”.

Although Judge Perry pointed out that the offence probably merited immediate imprisonment, he said imposing such a sentence would mean treating Duffy, Conway and McLaughlin differently to those already in jail.

Instead, he suspended the 20 month term for a period of three years.


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