Northern Ireland killers mounting legal challenges after ruling

Aaron Wallace is currently serving a life sentence for his part in the sectarian killing of Michael McIlveen

Aaron Wallace is currently serving a life sentence for his part in the sectarian killing of Michael McIlveen

Some of Northern Ireland’s most high-profile murders are set to feature in a potentially landmark bid to have convictions quashed.

Appeal judges will examine at least five cases in September based on a Supreme Court ruling on the interpretation of joint enterprise.

Those mounting renewed challenges include one of the men jailed for the fatal knife attack on north Belfast schoolboy Thomas Devlin, and a man imprisoned over the killing of Ballymena teenager Michael McIlveen.

A similar legal attempt is being mounted by a man convicted of murdering hospital porter David Hamilton, who was bludgeoned to death in his east Belfast flat.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan confirmed on Friday that two days have been set aside to hear all arguments.

Defence lawyers want each of the cases re-examined following a new finding on a law that allowed people to be convicted of murder even if they did not inflict the fatal blow.

In February the Surpreme Court held that joint enterprise has been wrongly applied for more than 30 years.

The ruling, reached in the case of Ameen Jogee for the murder of former Leicestershire policeman Paul Fyfe in 2011, could pave the way for hundreds of appeals.

One of those seeking to rely on the verdict is Nigel Brown, who is serving a minimum 20-year prison sentence for killing Thomas Devlin in August 2005.

Fifteen-year-old Thomas was knifed to death close to his home in the city.

His friend, Jonathan McKee, was also attacked and stabbed in the stomach.

The killers struck on the Somerton Road as the young victims were walking back from a shop with a third teenager, Fintan Maguire.

Brown, 32, formerly of Whitewell Road, and 29-year-old Gary Taylor, from Mountcollyer Avenue - both in Belfast - were jointly convicted of murder and attempted murder.

Another convicted murderer attempting to rely on the Jogee ruling is 34-year-old Mark Kincaid.

He is seeking to reopen his appeal over being found guilty of killing Mr Hamilton in 2004.

The victim was battered about the head with blunt objects at his flat in Belfast’s Ballybeen estate.

Kincaid was one of three men convicted of the murder and ordered to serve a minimum 16 years in prison - but has continued to protest his innocence.

Papers have also been lodged on behalf of Aaron Wallace, 27, who is serving a life sentence for his part in the sectarian killing of Michael McIlveen.

The 15-year-old victim died from brain injuries after being beaten by a baseball bat in Ballymena in 2006.

Other convictions will also be scrutinised at the hearing in September, where guidance may be issued on how such cases should be handled in future.

Outside court solicitor Gerard McNamara of KRW Law, who are representing Brown and Kincaid, confirmed further applications are being planned.

He said: “The principle of joint enterprise can apply to all kinds of offences, but it is inevitable that a lot of the focus will be on cases where joint enterprise has been used to secure convictions for murder.

“It is anticipated that the Court of Appeal will hear legal argument in these cases and issue its own guidance in relation to the Jogee case and the principle of joint enterprise in this jurisdiction.”