A former loyalist activist who helped a journalist to expose a paramilitary drug racket won the first round in his legal battle to be granted police protection.
The High Court in Belfast gave permission for Barrie Bradbury to challenge the Northern Ireland Office's decision to refuse him security assistance under the Key Persons Protection Scheme.
The court was told that Mr Bradbury had been the subject of three assassination attempts after helping the journalist Martin O'Hagan to expose drug crimes involving paramilitaries associated with the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF).
Mr O'Hagan, 51, who worked for the Sunday World in Dublin, was murdered in September by loyalists on his way home from a pub in Lurgan, Co Armagh.
Senior security sources believe that the LVF, which has a strong presence in Lurgan and nearby Portadown, was responsible. Mr O'Hagan was the first journalist killed in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Mr Bradbury, 61, who is a well known anti-drugs campaigner, has recorded 12 incidents of intimidation and violence against himself and his family. In December 1997 two masked men burst into his home with a sawn-off shotgun and in February his house was attacked with a pipe-bomb.
But Mr Bradbury's request to be granted police protection has been turned down by the Northern Ireland Office. A spokesman for the office said yesterday that it was not the Government's policy to comment on individual cases.
Each application is considered by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Although designed for people working in public service, the minister has discretion to extend its cover to other people "making a positive and helpful contribution" to the realisation of the scheme's aims.
If Mr Bradbury wins his case, which will be heard in full next year, the door could be open for other members of the community who believe they are at risk from paramilitary attack to seek state protection.Reuse content