The Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, yesterday made his first public intervention in the case of North Belfast man John O’Hagan.
Mr O’Hagan – who faces charges of possession of documents that could be useful to terrorists - learned on Monday that he was being refused bail by the High Court – for the seventh time.

The New Lodge man has now been held on remand at Maghaberry prison for nineteen months – effectively a three-year sentence – without being convicted of any offence.
Speaking exclusively to the Andersonstown News, Gerry Adams said he is, “extremely concerned at the treatment of John O’Hagan by the entire criminal justice system in the North.
“Mr O’Hagan has now been refused bail on seven different occasions. That he should be held in custody for nineteen months – without having been convicted of any offence – is totally unacceptable.

“The treatment afforded to Mr O’Hagan by the policing and judicial systems in the North contrasts starkly with the treatment given to many other cases – including prominent loyalists with previous convictions.”
Mr Adams said that the case “is an indication of the significant change that is still required in terms of making policing and criminal justice systems properly accountable”.

Despite Mr O’Hagan’s nineteen months on remand, it is understood that the prosecution has still not forwarded any fingerprint or forensic evidence to the defence.
Yesterday, Mr O’Hagan’s solicitor, Phillip Breen, told the Andersonstown News he is concerned that his client cannot now be properly defended.

“I fail to see how we can properly defend John in this complex matter unless we are given disclosure of the material that has been requested.
“Since August 2002 we have been told that fingerprint reports are being forwarded – yet we are still waiting.
“We need full fingerprint and forensic reports and access to alleged intelligence information that is being used in this prosecution.
“If there is a continued refusal to disclose relevant information or if an ex-party application is made to ban disclosure, then John’s defence is severely hampered,” said Mr Breen.

Mr Breen said he is concerned that his client’s rights are being undermined.
“On the one hand crucial evidence is being withheld from the defence, yet on the other hand Mr O’Hagan has been continually refused bail.

“The possibility of our independent experts being able to thoroughly analyse evidence – which we have yet to receive – before the trial date which is scheduled for December 1, is being made extremely unlikely,” said Mr Breen.
A spokesperson for Mr O’Hagan’s family expressed deep concern at the handling of the case.

“We have always been concerned about the timing and high-profile nature of John’s arrest by the PSNI.
“We are now equally concerned about the treatment of this case by the prosecution and judicial system. Issues such as disclosure by the prosecution are fundamental to a fair trial, yet John’s solicitor has been denied relevant material for nineteen months.
There are serious questions now to be asked about the treatment of John’s case, which has yet to reach trial – particularly when it is contrasted with other high-profile cases in which repeat offenders are ‘fast-tracked’ for appeal.”

Journalist:: Jarlath Kearney

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