Two dissident republican prisoners from Derry who were given cellular confinement for refusing jailhouse orders have won High Court permission to challenge the adjudication process.
Seamus McLaughlin and Nathan Hastings were granted leave to seek a judicial review of decisions to find them guilty of refusing orders to lock up their cells.
Disciplinary proceedings were issued against them in connection with a stand-off last month at Roe House, the separated wing for republican inmates at Maghaberry Prison.
McLaughlin (39) is serving a 12 year jail-term for possession of mortar bombs found in a van stopped by police on Derry’s Letterkenny Road in March 2013.
Hastings (23) is behind bars for possession of guns and explosives recovered in the city during an undercover PSNI operation the same year.
Both men were accused of refusing to lock up their cells following an incident in August were another prisoner was allegedly assaulted by a member of prison staff.
They launched legal proceedings after the disciplinary process resulted in them being confined for seven days in the prison’s Care and Supervision Unit (CSU).
Lawyers for the men argued that the adjudication was wrongly carried out in their absence when they had requested more time for legal consultations.
It was claimed that the guilty finding was in breach of the Prison Service’s own guidelines.
An emergency court case was put on hold after the authorities agreed to review the process.
But the men’s legal teams renewed their challenges after the same outcome was reached.
They argued that the process was undermined by the same governor overseeing the review of his original decision.
In court on Thursday, barrister Andrew Moriarty claimed there was apparent bias.
He also contended that the Prison Service had failed to comply with its own rules on conducting adjudications.
Granting leave to seek a judicial review, Mr Justice Colton held that the principles of natural justice had, arguably, not been followed.
He added: “There’s an argument there was apparent bias in terms of the ultimate decision in this matter.
“As a result, there’s an argument the decision is unlawful.”
The case will now proceed to a full hearing at a later date.
Outside court solicitor Fearghal Shields, of Madden and Finucane, insisted the governor had been notified that it was improper to sit as an appellate tribunal of his own decision.
Mr Shields said: “He had already reached a decision adverse to our client in what we say was a thoroughly unfair manner.”