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Ex-IRA bomber wins £100 but faces huge bill

(Irish News)

A former IRA bomber who took an English police force to court for wrongful arrest has been left with a legal bill estimated at several hundred thousand pounds.

Glasgow-born Scott Monaghan was awarded £100 in damages at the High Court yesterday (Tuesday) from Northumbria Police but was ordered to pay most of the defence team's costs.

He had been held in custody for 60 hours in 1999 on suspicion of the attempted murder of IRA informer Martin McGartland on Tyneside more than six years ago.

Monaghan (39) was jailed in 1993 for 15 years – with another 989 years to run consecutively – but was released from the Maze under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. He had pleaded guilty to 80 offences.

Monaghan told police about his part in a series of IRA arson attacks which caused around £1 million of damage to businesses from December 1991 to January 1992.

He also admitted involvement in two bomb attacks in Belfast – one destroyed the Department of the Environ-ment offices in Adelaide Street and the other damaged Donegall Pass RUC station.

Monaghan was arrested when the car he was driving – which was rigged as a bomb – drove through a west Belfast checkpoint and crashed into a police car.

IRA informant Martin McGartland was shot outside his home in 1999.

Monaghan – then an electronics student at Glasgow University – was arrested eight months later.

He was released on bail, although this was cancelled eight months later.

In 2003 he began proceedings against Northumbria Police for false imprisonment, assault and wrongful interference with goods.

Following a six-day High Court case, sitting in Newcastle, the Glaswegian heard that his main claims had failed and the force had been entitled to arrest him.

But Mr Justice Bean did find Northumbria Police should have returned items of his property more promptly, having held them for four years.

Detective Chief Superinten-dant Chris Symonds told the court there had been reasonable grounds to consider Monaghan was a suspect.

He was similar in description to a man believed to have been involved in planning the attempted murder and there was also intelligence from Northern Ireland that someone in the IRA called 'Scott' had been involved.

The court heard that a tape recording of a suspect involv-ed in planning the 'hit' also sounded like Monaghan, according to a detective.

Monaghan brought the case on a 'no win, no fee' basis and his side was ordered to pay 95 per cent of the defence costs for the period 1999-2004.

However, the judge ordered the defence to pay the full costs for almost the last two years of the case, because it failed to disclose an important document until a month before it opened.

A Belfast legal source said the costs could be as high as several hundred thousand pounds but Monaghan could still appeal the decision.

Northumbria Police deputy chief constable David Warcup said it had felt the arrest was legitimate "from the outset".

"Once in custody, he was treated in exactly the same way as anyone else held on suspicion of committing such a serious offence," he said.

January 26, 2006

This article appeared first in the January 25, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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