‘No payout’ ruling after terms quashed

Published Monday, 26 November 2012
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Two men whose convictions for terrorist offences were quashed after more than 30 years are not entitled to compensation, the High Court has ruled.

‘No payout’ ruling after terms quashed
The judge stated that the decision to refuse compensation is “not unlawful." (© UTV)

Lawyers for Joseph Fitzpatrick and Terence Shiels, who pleaded guilty as teenagers, claimed the Justice Minister had wrongly denied them pay-outs.

They argued that David Ford mistakenly decided no miscarriage of justice has been established in their cases.

But a judge dismissed their cases because there was no "new or newly discovered fact" that merited compensation.

The two men were seeking an order compelling the government to make awards.

Had they succeeded, it could have opened the floodgates to a series of similar applications stretching back to the 1970s.

Mr Fitzpatrick, 50, from the Markets area of Belfast, was jailed for five years for membership of Fianna na hÉireann - the IRA's youth wing - and an arson attack on a motor garage in February 1977.

He was also convicted of involvement in a gun attack on an army patrol the previous December following an alleged admission to acting as a scout for the Provisionals.

In a separate case, Mr Shiels, 49, from the Creggan in Derry, was held on suspicion of involvement in a shooting incident at the city's Rosemount RUC station in March 1978.

He received a suspended jail sentence based on a written statement in which he too allegedly admitted being a member of the Fianna and possession of a handgun.

Both men were aged 16 when they were arrested and, under the Judges' Rules which operated at the time, should have been allowed access to a solicitor and appropriate adult during interview.

Their convictions were overturned by the Court of Appeal in May 2009 after being referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

With a breach of the Judges' Rules established, and the only evidence being the teenagers' admissions, the guilty verdicts were held to be unsafe.

Both men's applications for compensation were then turned down by the Secretary of State.

Following a landmark Supreme Court ruling that Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney and Derry journalist Eamonn MacDermott should receive compensation after having murder convictions quashed, the Department of Justice agreed to review its position in the Fitzpatrick and Shiels cases.

However, last December the refusal was reaffirmed on the basis that their convictions were not reversed due to any new or newly discovered fact showing beyond reasonable doubt a miscarriage of justice.

Barristers for Mr Fitzpatrick and Mr Shiels argued in judicial review proceedings that the authorities had got it wrong.

But Mr Justice Treacy held that neither man were in the category where fresh evidence has emerged to clearly show their innocence.

He also ruled out another miscarriage of justice, criteria where the new or newly discovered fact would have been enough to either stop the prosecutions going to trial or resulted in them being thrown out for having no case to answer.

The judge stated that the decision to refuse compensation is "not unlawful and the judicial reviews are dismissed."

© UTV News
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