A Derry man stopped and searched dozens of times under anti-terrorism legislation has cleared the first stage in his High Court challenge to the police practice.

Stephen Ramsey was granted leave to seek a judicial review of powers used to repeatedly detain him.

His lawyers are set to rely on a ruling that similar operations which targeted a former IRA hunger striker and a brother-in-law of Martin McGuinness were unlawful.

The case centres on stop and search actions carried out under the Justice and Security (NI) Act 2007.

Although Mr Ramsey – from the Creggan area of the city – says he has been detained nearly 100 times since 2008, his challenge is focused on incidents since a code of practice was introduced in May.

His legal team contend police have continued to breach their powers since then.

In similar challenges earlier this year, the Court of Appeal identified a lack of adequate safeguards against potential abuse of the system in the cases of Bernard Fox and Marvin Canning.

Mr Canning, from the Glendara area of the city, claimed powers used to stop and question him up to 100 times were incompatible with his right to privacy under European law.

The 55-year-old, who is related to the Northern Ireland deputy first minister through marriage, alleged that Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers were sometimes oppressive and confrontational.

Proceedings were also brought by Mr Fox, who took part in the 1981 IRA hunger strikes inside the Maze prison, and his companion Christine McNulty.

The Belfast man served more than 20 years in prison for offences including possession of explosives before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Police stopped a car he and Ms McNulty were travelling in near Camlough, County Armagh, in March 2011.

In court, Mr Justice Treacy granted leave for Mr Ramsey to apply for a judicial review, fixing the case for a full hearing in January.

After clearing the first hurdle in the challenge, his lawyer said police have already conceded stop and searches carried out on him before the code of practice was implemented were unlawful.

Mr Ramsey will now seek damages over these incidents.

Solicitor Fearghal Shiels, of Madden & Finucane, added: “In light of the Chief Constable’s unique concession, the current judicial review application will directly challenge the operation of the legislation and the code of practice in respect of stop and searches since 15 May and its compliance with current European human rights standards.

“The PSNI continue to abuse the power given to it and the code of practice does not in our view offer sufficient protection against the arbitrary use.”

UTV News