Man's arrest on suspicion of IRA membership in connection with David Black murder ruled unlawful

David Black.

The Special Criminal Court has ruled that the arrest on suspicion of IRA membership of a man charged in connection with the murder of Northern Ireland prison officer David Black was unlawful.

Vincent Banks (aged 46), of Smithfield Gate Apartments in Dublin 7, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of withholding information in relation to the murder.

Last week, the trial entered a voir dire, a trial within a trial to determine legal issues relating to the detention and arrest of the accused man as well as searches of his apartment in Smithfield and an address in Finglas.

Mr Banks is also charged with membership of an unlawful organisation styling itself the Irish Republican Army, otherwise Oglaigh na hEireann, otherwise the IRA on December 18, 2012.

He has been remanded on the membership count and the matter is due to proceed immediately upon the judgement on the withholding information count.

However, the defence challenged the arrest of Mr Banks under Section 30 (A) of the Offences Against the State (Amendment Act 1998) Act 1939. This section states that a person who is arrested on suspicion of having committed an offence under the Act and who is subsequently released without charge cannot be arrested again for the same offence without a warrant.

The court heard evidence that Mr Banks had been arrested in September 2012 for alleged membership of an unlawful organisation and was released without charge. It was argued that his subsequent arrest for membership of the IRA on December 18, 2012 was without a warrant and was therefore unlawful.

Returning judgement today, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court accepted the proposition that membership of an unlawful organisation is, of its nature, a continuing offence. He said the challenged arrest, although it involved a different date, was for the same offence and, being without a warrant, was therefore unlawful.

However, Mr Justice Butler said the court did not accept the argument that this tainted the arrest of Mr Banks for the offence of withholding information.

The court ruled that Mr Banks’ detention after arrest, the subsequent extension of this detention and the warrants used to search the two premises were lawful.

The court has heard that 52-year-old Mr Black, who worked at the high security Maghaberry jail in Co Antrim, was shot to death as he drove to work on the M1 motorway near Lurgan on November 1, 2012.

It is the prosecution case that Mr Black was shot to death by the occupants of a Toyota Camry car with the Republic of Ireland registration 94 D 50997, and that this car was purchased by Mr Banks.

The non-jury court has heard evidence that bullet casings recovered near the scene of the shooting were fired from the same weapon as casings retrieved from a Toyota Camry, registration 94 D 50997, which was found burnt-out nearby.

The charge against Mr Banks states that the accused, between October 10th and December 20th 2012 inclusive, within the State, being a person who had information which he knew or believed might be of material assistance in securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of another person for a serious offence, namely the murder of David Black, did fail without reasonable excuse to disclose the information as soon as was practicable to Gardai.

The trial continues.

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