Belfast Judge dismisses PSNI objections to prison visit and upholds right to family and private life in accordance with Article 8 of ECHR. Ms O’Hanlon is represented by Patrick Madden of Madden & Finucane Solicitors.
A young woman accused of making explosives for dissident republicans has had her bail varied to allow her to visit her co-accused boyfriend in Hydebank Young Offenders Centre.
Orla O’Hanlon, 18, is accused along with her 19-year-old partner Keith McConnan of a number of offences including making and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life or property at their south Armagh home.
The couple were arrested following police searches of their home on Tievcrom Road in Forkill in December 2013, where a number of items including an industrial three foot-tall grinder were seized.
It is the Crown’s case that when this grinder was tested, white powder confirmed as ammonium nitrate – similar to that used in home-made explosives – was discovered in and around the appliance.
O’Hanlon spent time in custody and was subsequently released on bail, and one of the bail conditions was that she was not allowed to contact co-accused McConnan.
Last week O’Hanlon made an application at Belfast Crown Court to have this condition of her bail altered to allow her to visit her boyfriend in Hydebank.
However, the Crown objected on the grounds that boxes for two grinders were found in the house with only one grinder located. This, Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said, gave rise to police concerns that “a quantity of explosives is outstanding in the area.”
Further outlining the Crown objections, Mr Steer said it was the prosecution’s view that O’Hanlon was “very closely linked to this incident” albeit “less centrally involved”, adding police were keen O’Hanlon and McConnan don’t have any contact with each other.
Regarding the outstanding explosives, Mr Greer expressed concerns that a meeting between the couple could lead to an “intelligence risk where communication is passed back and forwards between themselves and other people”.
At last week’s hearing, defence barrister Andrew Moriarty said for the Crown to suggest “there may be some Machiavellian plot hatched between these two very young people in Hydebank is not remotely realistic”.
Regarding his client, the defence barrister said O’Hanlon had a strong bond which was “akin to dependancy” with McConnan and that the deprivation of contact with her boyfriend has had a negative effect on her mental health.
After the adjournment, Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland on Wednesday agreed to vary O’Hanlon’s bail conditions to allow her one visit to McConnan on the grounds it is supervised by a prison officer who will be present for the duration of the visit.
A second condition is that during the visit, O’Hanlon is not permitted to discuss anything in relation to the current criminal proceedings with McConnan, or to discuss contacting or speaking to any third party.
As the bail variation only granted one visit, should O’Hanlon want to visit her boyfriend again, a fresh application will need to be made before the court.