PPS in Devlin case 'human rights breach'

Published Friday, 23 November 2012
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The Public Prosecution Service's failure to consult the family of a man stabbed to death before dropping murder charges breached their human rights, a High Court judge has ruled.

PPS in Devlin case 'human rights breach'
The scene of the 2006 stabbing in Ballymurphy, west Belfast. (© Pacemaker)

Mr Justice Treacy said conduct surrounding the decision to accept guilty pleas to lesser offences from those accused over Gerard Devlin's killing would have exacerbated feelings of distress and anguish.

Mr Devlin was stabbed outside his home in Ballymurphy, west Belfast in 2006. Five members of another family pleaded guilty to offences linked to the case.

Francisco Notarantonio, 24, of Whitecliff Parade, Belfast, was jailed for 11 years after admitting a charge of manslaughter.

Four other members of the Notarantonio family pleaded guilty to affray and received sentences ranging from a one-year suspended term to two years' imprisonment.

Lawyers for Mr Devlin's partner, Aine McMahon, who brought judicial review proceedings, criticised the failure to consult with the family before lesser pleas were accepted from the suspects on the day they were due to go on trial.

They argued that the challenge raises important issues about the rights of victims within the criminal justice system.

Earlier this year, Mr Justice Treacy ruled that the PPS breached its own Victims and Witnesses Policy by not explaining the decision to accept guilty pleas to the family prior to being announced in court.

In a further judgment on Friday, he held that the failure also amounted to a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, dealing with rights to privacy and family life.

The judge found that Ms McMahon, as the murder victim's partner, was covered by the legislation.
Mr Devlin's mother, Mary, described the verdict as vindication for the family's decision to bring a legal challenge over their treatment by the PPS.

She said outside the court: "The fact remains that our son was murdered and those that murdered him got away with a slap on the wrist.

"Meanwhile the family are left to serve a life sentence. This is not, and never should be, justice."

The Devlin family's solicitor, Paul Pierce of Kevin Winters and Co, added that the ruling had upheld their concerns about PPS conduct during the criminal proceedings.

© UTV News
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