FRIDAY 26/09/2003 15:54:55 UTV
IRA suspect awaits bail fight result

The only person in prison awaiting trial on terrorist offences
allegedly linked to the Provisional IRA has spent the equivalent of
a three-year sentence in custody without bail, a court heard today.

By: Press Association

Lord Justice McCollum reserved judgment in the latest bail
application by John O`Hagan at Belfast Crown Court today.

O`Hagan, 30, from north Belfast has been held in Maghaberry prison for 18 months awaiting trial on a charge of possessing documents containing information that could be useful to terrorists.

He was arrested in March last year by the team of detectives
investigating the break in at Special Branch headquarters at
Castlereagh, in east Belfast, on St Patrick`s Day 2002.

The prosecution case against O`Hagan centres around a computer, discs, documents and other files allegedly seized from his home at Lepper Street in the New Lodge area but which are understood to be unrelated to the Castlereagh break in.

However, O`Hagan denies the charge and his legal team has argued that he did not live in the house where the items were recovered.

O`Hagan has made repeated attempts to get bail and been turned down on the grounds that he may re-offend or not turn up for trial.

Lord Justice McCollum was told in Belfast Crown Court today that a trial date had been set for December 1.

But senior counsel for O`Hagan, Philip Magee, said he was uncertain whether the case would proceed then as there were issues which were still outstanding.

Mr Magee said his client had already served the equivalent of a
three-year sentence in prison while awaiting his trial.

He said that while the maximum sentence for the offence was 10
years, the longest ever imposed in a similar case was five years
"at a time when the conflict was ongoing."

Mr Magee said there was no question of his client re-offending or
absconding before the trial.

He also said Mr O`Hagan was the only person allegedly linked to the mainstream republican movement who was being held in custody awaiting trial.

Bail, he said, had been granted to others, including Denis Donaldson who was alleged to have been a senior IRA intelligence officer involved in the Stormont spy ring.

Lord Justice McCollum said he would reserve judgment in the case
until he was more acquainted with Mr Justice Girvan`s ruling on the case in Belfast`s High Court last week.

Mr Justice Girvan refused bail on that occasion saying that there
was a risk of O`Hagan re-offending.

But he added that if he had discretion, given the passage of time he had been in custody, he would have granted bail.

Lord Justice McCollum said he would rule on the case on Monday.

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