Men in fresh bid to have McIlveen murder convictions ‘quashed’

Michael McIlveen
Michael McIlveen

Two men who pleaded guilty to the murder of a Catholic schoolboy have launched a legal bid to have their convictions quashed for a second time.

Aaron Cavana Wallace, 28, and Christopher Francis Kerr, 30, are serving life sentences for their roles in the sectarian killing of 15-year-old Michael McIlveen in Ballymena, Co Antrim nearly 11 years ago.

Aaron Wallace

Aaron Wallace

Defence lawyers argued that a revised law on joint enterprise cases has now rendered their convictions unsafe.

Judgment was reserved following submissions at the Court of Appeal in Belfast today.

Michael McIlveen was attacked with a baseball bat in an alleyway after being chased by a gang in his hometown in May 2006.

The teenager, known to his friends and family as Mickybo, died later from brain injuries inflicted during the assault.

Christopher Francis Kerr

Christopher Francis Kerr

The man who used the bat, Mervyn Wilson Moon, 29, from Douglas Terrace in the town, was jailed for a minimum 10 years.

In 2009 Kerr, of Carnduff Drive, and Wallace, from Moat Road, both in Ballymena, were also found guilty of the schoolboy’s murder.

Although those convictions were quashed the pair entered guilty pleas as their retrial was due to get underway four years ago.

Admissions were made on the basis of a statement of facts agreed by prosecution and defence lawyers in relation to the roles they played in events surrounding Michael’s death.

Wallace was ordered to serve at least eight years behind bars, while Kerr’s tariff was set at a year higher because he had obtained the baseball bat.

But both men’s legal teams now contend that a Supreme Court ruling on the interpretation of joint enterprise casts doubt on the safety of their convictions.

The new law includes a requirement that to be found guilty a secondary party must share an intention to inflict serious harm on the victim - foresight alone is not enough.

The court heard Michael was knocked to the ground by a blow from the bat wielded by Moon.

Wallace and Kerr were said to be part of a group who also kicked the victim during the attack.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justice Weir and Mr Justice Deeny, identified a central issue as being the appellants’ objectives.

Addressing Arthur Harvey QC, for Wallace, the judge said: “The question is whether or not it’s unsafe to draw the inference that having seen the baseball bat and recognised it was going to be used in the attack that was sufficient to justify the inference he had the intention to cause serious harm to Michael McIlveen.”

Mr Harvey responded that there was no foresight to inflict grievous harm to the victim.

“There’s nothing from this statement of facts which indicated the appellant Wallace saw Moon take the bat from Kerr,” he continued.

“There’s no one thing in this statement indicating the appellant Wallace saw or could have seen Moon strike the deceased with the baseball bat.”

Reserving judgment, Sir Declan pledged to give a decision in the case as soon as possible.