Murderer and rapist has parole bid rejected

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A man jailed for raping and murdering a woman in Northern Ireland has failed in a High Court challenge to being declared unsuitable for release.

The prisoner, granted anonymity, wanted a judge to quash a panel of Parole Commissioners’ decision that he should remain confined to protect the public.

But Mr Justice Maguire rejected claims that the failure to call evidence from a senior prison psychologist rendered the process unlawful.

In 1988 the man, referred to as KC, was convicted of a murder said to have significant sexual overtones.

No further details of the killing were disclosed in court.

KC received a minimum 21-year tariff which expired in October 2008.

He has repeatedly gone before the Parole Commissoners over the last eight years in a bid to be assessed as suitable for release.

Despite a single commissioner’s provisional recommendation in July 2016 that he should be allowed out of jail, a panel reached a different conclusion two months later.

They held that the risk of serious harm posed by KC remains too high to be managed in the community, even under robust licence conditions.

With the murder described as “entirely internally driven”, the prisoner was said to have been guilty of breaches of trust on periods of temporary release.

The panel cited his long history of deceptiveness and lack of transparency.

Lawyers for KC attempted to judicially review their decision, arguing that the commissioners wrongly considered they could not hear evidence from a principal psychologist within the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

During the last three years the psychologist has prepared a series of generally favourable reports in KC.

Counsel for the prisoner contended that if the expert had given evidence to the panel it could have made a significant difference to the outcome.

Mr Justice Maguire held the commissioners had incorrectly taken the view that they were unable to hear from the psychologist as a witness because neither party called him.

However, he concluded that the failure to use their power did not render the panel’s decision unlawful.

He pointed out that the psychologist was unlikely to have changed his outlook from reports already before the panel.

“This case seems to be a long way away from a case in which the witness was required to avoid substantial injustice or fundamental unfairness,” the judge said.

Dismissing the legal challenge, he also stressed that KC is due to have another parole hearing in June.

“In this circumstance, it seems unlikely to the court that a quashing order would in fact be likely to assist the applicant by materially shortening the already existing timetable in respect of a further hearing.”