David Black murder: Dublin man’s arrest was ‘unlawful’ (BCC News NI)

The arrest of a man on suspicion of IRA membership in connection with the murder of a prison officer was unlawful, a court has ruled.

Vincent Banks, 46, of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of withholding information in relation to the murder of David Black.

Mr Black, a 52-year-old father of two, was shot dead on the M1 in County Armagh as he went to work at Maghaberry Prison in November 2012.

Last week, the trial at Dublin’s Special Criminal Court entered a voir dire, a trial within a trial to determine legal issues relating to the detention and arrest of the accused man as well as searches of his apartment in Smithfield and an address in Finglas.

Mr Banks is charged with membership of an unlawful organisation, the dissident Irish republican group calling itself the IRA, on 18 December, 2012.

He has been remanded on the membership count and the matter is due to proceed immediately upon the judgement on the withholding information count.

However, the defence challenged the arrest of Mr Banks under Section 30 (A) of the Offences Against the State (Amendment Act 1998) Act 1939.

This section states that a person who is arrested on suspicion of having committed an offence under the Act, and who is subsequently released without charge, cannot be arrested again for the same offence without a warrant.

The court heard evidence that Mr Banks had been arrested in September 2012 for alleged membership of an unlawful organisation and was released without charge.

It was argued that his subsequent arrest for membership of the IRA on 18 December 18, 2012, was without a warrant and was therefore unlawful.

Returning judgement on Wednesday, Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court accepted the proposition that membership of an unlawful organisation is, of its nature, a continuing offence.

He said the challenged arrest, although it involved a different date, was for the same offence and, being without a warrant, was therefore unlawful.

However, Mr Justice Butler said the court did not accept the argument that this tainted the arrest of Mr Banks for the offence of withholding information.

The court ruled that Mr Banks’ detention after arrest, the subsequent extension of this detention and the warrants used to search the two premises were lawful.

It is the prosecution case that Mr Black was shot by the occupants of a Toyota Camry car, with the Republic of Ireland registration 94 D 50997, and that this car was purchased by Mr Banks.

The non-jury court has heard evidence that bullet casings recovered near the scene of the shooting were fired from the same weapon as casings retrieved from a Toyota Camry, registration 94 D 50997, which was found burnt-out nearby.

The trial continues.


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