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Alone again Moaning gangster complains about being kept in Covid-19 isolation in jail

The Galway man told a court hearing in Newry this week: "My mental health suffers very badly in isolation. I've been in there twice already."

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Michael O’Loughlin has been in isolation twice

Michael O’Loughlin has been in isolation twice

Michael O’Loughlin has been in isolation twice

An infamous gangster facing charges of conspiracy to murder has complained about the effects on his mental health of Covid-19 isolation in prison.

Michael O'Loughlin said that he has to go into isolation in prison after interviews with police who are investigating a slew of criminal charges against him.

The Galway man told a court hearing in Newry this week: "My mental health suffers very badly in isolation. I've been in there twice already."

O'Loughlin is facing a litany of charges in the North after the UK's National Crime Agency used information from the hacked Encrochat network used by criminals to encrypt messages.

O'Loughlin (41), with an address at Upper Dromore Road, Warrenpoint, Co Down, has been on remand in prison since his arrest last year.

This week Newry Magistrates' Court agreed to a request for him to be released into police custody for questioning.

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However, O'Loughlin's defence lawyer, who suggested a fresh bail application may be lodged, said the Galway criminal was concerned about having to go into isolation before returning to the prison's general population following police questioning.

Detective Constable Darren Flanagan said the defendant would be temperature checked before entering police custody. He added that representations would be made to the prison service regarding isolation.

Previously the court heard that the allegations against O'Loughlin were based upon an "encrypted phone" which police had "lawfully" accessed.

O'Loughlin appeared at Newry Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, via video link from Maghaberry.

He faces charges of conspiring to commit murder, to possess firearms, to rob, to handle criminal property and a total of 11 drug offences, including conspiracies to import cannabis and cocaine.

All offences are alleged to have been committed on dates between March 25 and June 14 last year and the court previously heard from a detective that "the main evidence is in the content of an encrypted mobile phone that was seized using an Encro operating system."

This week an officer applied to have O'Loughlin released into their custody in Banbridge for 24 hours to be questioned.

Defence barrister Aaron Thompson confirmed the application was being consented to before District Judge Eamon King granted the police request.

The case was adjourned until next month for an update.

O'Loughlin previously made headlines when he was sentenced to nine years for membership of a criminal organisation in 2012 - the first such sentence in the State under then new anti-gang legislation.

He and his brother Eddie, who had their sentences reduced to six-and-a-half years on appeal, were targets of Operation Foolscap which focused on the brothers and more than a dozen members of their gang.

They were released in 2016.

A number of other criminals from the Republic have been arrested around Europe as part of the Encrochat probe.

Notorious Dublin criminal Aymen Shebani is currently out on bail in Northern Ireland facing drugs and firearms conspiracy charges.

Former haulage firm boss Thomas Maher, from Offaly, was the first Irishman convicted over the Encrochat hack when he pleaded guilty to importing drugs into Britain and money laundering charges at Liverpool Crown Court last September.

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