Sugden voices concern over disappearance of Damien McLaughlin

Date published: 13 January 2017

Justice Minister, Claire Sugden, has welcomed the steps being taken to discover the circumstances which led to the disappearance of Damien McLaughlin who is charged in connection with the murder of prison officer, David Black.

Minister Sugden said: “I am deeply concerned about this issue, and am in contact with the Chief Constable to understand the events that led to the circumstances now being reported. I am reassured to see that both the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman are now looking into this issue.

“I deeply regret the further hurt and distress caused to the Black family and it is important to recognise that the family feel let down by the justice system. I understand that.

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the specifics of any individual case and, whilst it would be easy for me to say let’s await the outcome of those reviews to see what lessons can be learned, I want to be clear; the justice system must deliver the right outcomes for victims and defendants but at the heart of that is a system that must operate effectively and with the public confidence. 

The Minister explained that the Department of Justice is currently leading on the review of bail decisions in serious cases, required by Fresh Start. This work began in October 2016.

The Minister added: “I have asked my officials to do all they can to complete, as quickly as possible, the relevant Fresh Start actions on bail decisions and supervision on license arrangements.

“Also on Fresh Start, I am actively progressing my agenda on speeding up justice, including the reform of committal proceedings, statutory case management regulations, and new working methods on drugs and assault cases following the success of the Ards indictable cases pilot.

“It had also been my intention to bring forward legislation, under Fresh Start, to remove oral evidence from committal proceedings and I very much hope that this work can progress.

Minister Sugden added: “We need to keep in mind that this is about the loss of David Black and the impact that this is still having on his family, his friends and indeed the Prison Service family.

“The whole of the justice system needs to do the best it can to bring offenders to justice, but also to have a focus on how that is done, with victims’ and their families firmly in our mind.”

Notes to editors: 

1.    All media enquiries to DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number: 07623 974383 and your call will be returned

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