A life sentence prisoner who robbed two post officers could be given compensation after a court ordered that his human rights had been violated.

A parole board breached the rights of Co Tyrone man James Reilly by refusing to release him on licence without giving him an oral hearing, the High Court has ruled.

Reilly, who was jailed for raids on two Post Offices in London, is now considering seeking damages for the denial.

The 41-year-old was given a six years and eight months tariff in January 2003 after being convicted of robbery, attempted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm at the Old Bailey.

He was later transferred to Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, Co Antrim, with his tariff expiry date calculated as being September 20, 2009.

Reilly was turned down for release by a panel who held the risk remained too high.

They referred to his poor disciplinary record and continued inability to remain drug free.

Reilly was also told the earliest date at which he could have an oral hearing would be December 2010 — 15 months after the expiry of his tariff.

Reilly’s legal team launched a judicial review case against the Parole Board of England and Wales, who retain jurisdiction over his sentence.

His lawyers argued the decision was contrary to common law, unfair and breached Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) dealing with the right to liberty.

They argued that the reason he failed drugs test was because of medication prescribed for a medical condition.

After hearing the case Mr Justice Treacy ruled that fairness required a full and adequate opportunity to explore the issues at an oral hearing.

The judge found: “The decision of the parole board dated July 20, 2009, refusing the applicant release on licence without giving him an oral hearing, in the circumstances of this case, violated Article 5(4) and common law.”

With the decision not to grant the hearing expected to be quashed, Reilly’s solicitor Fearghal Shiels, of Madden and Finucane, claimed the denial had been based on trivial incidents or failed drugs tests which created a false impression.

Mr Shiels said: “The particular circumstances of Mr Reilly’s case demanded that an adversarial oral hearing was required in order to test the reasons to refuse him his release on licence.

“The decision that our client’s human rights have been violated is to be welcomed and we will now consider seeking damages on his behalf.”