Judge has ‘concerns’ about health of mortar accused

A judge has said he has ‘concerns’ about the way a man accused of possessing mortars is being held in isolation at Maghaberry Prison.

District Judge Barney McElholm made the comment as 38-year-old Gary McDaid appeared at the local magistrates court via videolink.

McDaid, of Sheriffs View, is jointly charged with 35-year-old Seamus McLaughlin, of Eastway Gardens, of conspiracy to cause an explosion. They are further charged with possession of explosives with intent to endanger life and possession of a van for use in terrorism. The charges relate to the discovery of four mortars in the Letterkenny Road area of the city on March 3.

Derry Magistrates Court heard that a number of forensic reports are still outstanding in the case, including reports in relation to fingerprints, DNA and explosives.

A prosecutor told the court that both the police and the PPS were unable to get a timetable from the Forensic Science Agency for when the reports would be ready. He added the police and the PPS have ‘absolutely no control’ over the way in which FSANI prioritise cases.

Defence solicitor for McDaid, Ciaran Shields, said “it is not good enough to say there is no DNA and explosives ready and we don’t know when. Those are the most important reports in respect of my client”.

He added that the 38-year-old is “being held in complete isolation in Maghaberry and there is serious concerns about his mental health. He has been on suicide watch for most of his time on remand. There is a real concern about him taking his own life because of approaches that had been made to him”.

As a result, Mr Shields claimed there was a ‘sense of urgency’ about this case.

Paddy MacDermott, defending McLaughlin, told the court his client would also be ‘anxious for a speedy trial’.

District Judge McElholm said he was ‘completely dissatisfied’ with the lack of response from the Forensic Science Agency. He added that he had “concerns about the regime under which McDaid is being held. I have concerns that is leading to the deterioration of his health”.

The judge adjourned the case for a representative of FSANI to either attend court or submit a written report to explain the delay and give the court an expectation of when forensic reports will be ready. He said that he would also entertain a further bail application by McDaid.