Freedom bid over Doherty murder fails

Published Thursday, 06 June 2013
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A Belfast loyalist jailed for murdering a Catholic teenager has failed in a High Court bid to be freed under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy.

Freedom bid over Doherty murder fails
Ms Doherty was murdered on her way home in October 1973. (© Pacemaker)

Lawyers for Robert Rodgers claimed he should have been granted the pardon because he has already served nearly 17 years in prison for another sectarian killing in the 1970s.

But a judge on Thursday threw out his challenge after pointing out that it could lead to a form of amnesty for anybody who killed more than once during the Troubles.

Rodgers, 59, was found guilty this year of murdering Eileen Doherty nearly 40 years ago.

The 19-year-old was shot three times after her taxi was hijacked by gunmen in south Belfast.

She was returning home to the west of the city from a visit to her fiancé when the killing was carried out in September 1973.

Rodgers, of Tierney Gardens, Belfast, was charged following a review of available evidence by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET). He denied the killing but was convicted on the basis of his palm prints being uncovered inside the taxi.

Once the government has set on this course it has to do it fairly. It can't pick and choose

David Scoffield QC

Although not suspected of firing the fatal shots, he was found guilty of a joint enterprise to murder.

Despite being jailed for life, he could be free after two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Rogers, however, sought to judicially review Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers over being turned down his request for a Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) request. He has already served another prison sentence for the killing of a Catholic man a year later.

Ciaran McElroy, 18, was shot a number of times in September 1974 on Park End Street, Belfast. His legal team argued that he has already served a life sentence for a Troubles-related killing carried out in Northern Ireland - putting him in a different category to former IRA gunrunner Gerry McGeough.

Dungannon man McGeough, who was jailed for the attempted murder of a part-time soldier in 1981, failed to secure an RPM because he had not served time in British or Irish jails for other offences in Germany and the United States.

In court David Scoffield QC, for Rodgers, claimed the refusal was irrational and procedurally unfair when compared to other cases where pardons were granted.

"The evidence clearly establishes that the government had this policy of supplementing the Good Friday Agreement early release scheme," he said.

During exchanges Mr Justice Treacy said: "If you were right this would amount to a de facto amnesty for anybody previously convicted of a terrorist-related offence and who had served the requisite period of time... namely two years in prison."

Mr Scoffield stressed that it would only apply to Troubles-related crimes committed before the Good Friday Agreement.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Secretary of State, pointed out that the RPM request was made before Rodgers was convicted.

"The applicant's contention was he would never serve a minute in prison for the sectarian murder of that young girl on the Annadale Embankment in 1973," he told the court. "That, in my submission, is unconscionable."

Following submissions Mr Justice Treacy refused leave to seek a judicial review.

With reasons for his decision set to be given next week, the judge ordered that Ms Doherty's next of kin should be notified of the case.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Eamo in Belfast wrote (599 days ago):
UTV why have you not printed my post about this double murdering scum. He has to pay the price for both murders as he committed both. He can not make new rules v
Eamo in Belfast wrote (599 days ago):
Who does this man think he is. This a totally different murder and he has to pay the price of killing an innocent Catholic girl. You can not make up your own rules
Boru in Ireland wrote (599 days ago):
Eileen Doherty and Ciaran McElroy were IRISH, Robert Rodgers is British -- what's religion got to do with it??
David in BELFAST wrote (599 days ago):
If this guy has been convicted of murdering someone else before even more reason to lock him up and through away the key. Why would he possibly have thought that because he has served time for a DIFFERENT murder that he wouldn't have to serve time for this one. As for only serving 2 years under the good friday agreement. He should thank his lucky stars hes only doing that. The Amnesty for prisoners was an absolute joke. It should never had been applied to those convicted NOW of crimes that happened years ago. They should have been given the opportunity to confess to crimes that happened at the time and if they didn't then if convicted later then they should be forced to serve the FULL term of their sentence.
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