Barrister stopped and searched on way to Derry court

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A District Judge said he was concerned after a barrister on his way to court to represent a man on terror charges was stopped and searched by police.

Barrister Plunkett Nugent told Derry Magistrate’s Court he would seek legal action and make a formal complaint to the Bar Council. He said an officer told him he was being stopped under terrorism legislation when he was pulled over at Victoria Road. He was on his way to represent Nathan Hastings (20) from Strabowen Drive, Strathfoyle, who is in custody charged with possessing an improvised explosive device, explosives, a firearm and ammunition. He subsequently missed his client’s video link hearing. The barrister told district judge Barney McElholm that he believed he was deliberately stopped by police because of the nature of the case. He told the court he asked several times which legislation he was being stopped under but that he initially received no reply from the officers. He was then told he was being stopped under the Road Traffic Act and that shortly afterwards his vehicle was being searched under Section 24 of the Justice and Security Act. Officers said they wanted to search for munitions and transmitters.

Mr. Nugent said he told officers that Section 24 of that Act had been deemed illegal by the Court of Appeal.

He said police asked him to shake out his documents to show he had nothing concealed.

District Judge Barney McElholm suggested a report could be made to the Police Ombudsman. He added that it was a matter for “concern” if police stopped lawyers on their way to court.

He said an independent legal profession “is one of the corner-stones of democracy”, adding that nothing should obstruct that.