McConville wins legal battle for web access

A dissident republican jailed for the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll has won a legal battle to ensure access to online resources for his degree studies.

Monday, 20th July 2020, 2:25 pm
Pacemaker Press 25/3/09 Tight security as 37 year old Brendan McConville arrives at Lisburn Court house charged with the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll who was shot by the RIRA in Craigavon two weeks ago. McConville is a former Sinn Fein councillor.

Brendan McConville’s High Court challenge ended following confirmation that he will be able to use computer facilities to complete an Open University course in criminology and psychology.

His lawyer claimed it was a victory which ensures education rights for inmates held within the segregated regime at Maghaberry Prison.

Gavin Booth of Phoenix Law said: “Today’s outcome, now granting Mr McConville access to the internet, is the most significant step forward for prisoners rights in Roe House since the 2012 separation agreement.”

McConville, 49, from Craigavon, Co Armagh, is serving at least 25 years behind bars for the murder of Constable Carroll ten years ago.

A second man, 29-year-old John Paul Wootton, from Lurgan, Co Armagh, was handed a minimum 18-year term for his part in the assassination.

Constable Carroll, 48, was the first police officer to be killed in Northern Ireland after the formation of the PSNI.

He was ambushed and shot dead by dissident republicans as he responded to a 999 call at Lismore Manor, Craigavon in March 2009.

A circumstantial case involving DNA evidence helped to secure the murder convictions, including gun residue on a coat linked to McConville recovered from a car said to have been used by the killers.

He is now in the final stages of a Bachelor of Science honours degree in criminology and psychology studies.

Judicial Review proceedings were brought against the Prison Service for an alleged failure to provide access to the necessary internet resources.

The court was told McConville is in segregation at Maghaberry for safety reasons.

His legal team claimed it was irrational for the authorities to say the convicted killer can use the facilities by simply leaving the separate regime.

Lawyers representing the Prison Service rejected assertions that he was treated differently or never offered use of the education suite, stressing it is located in a special unit open to all within the jail.

But the challenge is to be withdrawn by consent, based on the terms of a final order issued by the court.

The resolution involves prison chiefs agreeing to provide McConville appropriate access to computer-based Open University resources after Covid 19-related protective measures cease.

Welcoming the settlement reached, Mr Booth added: “Our client has been completing a degree while in prison and is excelling in his field of study.

“The right to education is a fundamental right for all prisoners and benefits not just the individuals concerned but all of society.

“Roe Prisoners should not be treated differently.”

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