Phil McCullough

A BELFAST man yesterday became the first person to mount a European court legal challenge to an exclusion order made under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Fifty-one-year-old Phil McCullough, from Andersonstown, first served with the order in 1977, is barred from entering England and faces a mandatory five year prison sentence if he breaks the order. The order meant that Mr McCullough was unable to attend the funeral of his father 10 years ago and is unable to visit his 74-year old mother and other relatives in Leeds and Manchester. Mr McCullough’s solicitor Peter Madden and two barristers travelled this week to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg for the hearing although a verdict is not expected to be reached for some months. Mr McCullough is seeking a declaration that his civil rights have been infringed by the making of the order and is also seeking a ruling that he has been denied a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal by law. He claimed that he has never been informed of the reason for the exclusion order and his solicitor Peter Madden claims that this failure to pinpoint reasons could highlight a miscarriage of justice. Mr Madden said: “My client could be the victim of a 20-year-long mistake but we can’t prove that unless we know what grounds the order is based upon. “What we are challenging in Strasbourg is the principle of the order and the way in which the home office has dealt with the challenge.” Mr McCullough said he has been “picked on” because of his participation in the civil rights movement and his association with republicans. He said: “What they are doing is imposing internal exile just as they did in the old Soviet Union, denying me freedom of movement. “I was offered a job in a saw mill in England but can’t do it because of this order.” A former chairman of Saoirse – the campaign for the release of paramilitary prisoners – Mr McCullough served an 18 month jail sentence in the 1960’s for explosives offences but believes that that is not the reason for his exclusion. “There are loads of people with convictions far more serious than mine and the home office have never even mentioned my time in jail. “All I want is to be able to travel to England to visit my mother who has Alzheimer’s and my brother who has Down’s Syndrome. “But I am being denied even that basic civil right.”