A former IRA man’s bid to overturn his attempted murder conviction by claiming he was assured immunity from prosecution by a senior Sinn Fein representative has no merit, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Lawyers for Gerry McGeough argued that criminal proceedings which led to him being jailed for trying to kill part-time soldier Samuel Brush 32 years ago were an abuse of process.
Central to their case was an allegation that Gerry Kelly MLA assured him in 2000 that he would not be charged if he returned to Northern Ireland from being on the run.
McGeough, who escaped from hospital after being wounded when his victim returned fire in the ambush, contended that this was a binding promise on behalf of the Stormont Executive.
But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan pointed to legal authorities which set out that an abuse of process depended on an unequivocal guarantee of immunity being given by those bringing the criminal case.
He said: “We do not consider that the evidence indicates any basis for the conclusion that Mr Kelly was a representative of those responsible for the conduct of the investigation or prosecutions.
“We further agree that in any event the statement attributed to Mr Kelly, who did not give evidence, did not contain any representation, never mind one which could be said to be unequivocal for the purpose of this test.”
Mr Brush, now a DUP councillor, was working as a postman when he was shot near Aughnacloy in June 1981.
McGeough, 54, and from Dungannon, was convicted in 2011 of attempted murder, possession of firearms with intent to commit an indictable offence, and IRA membership.
He was jailed for 20 years but released earlier this year under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
The one-time IRA gunrunner was not in court to hear the judges throw out all grounds of appeal.
McGeough also failed to establish that due to the passage of time it was unfair to try him.
Detailing his escape from hospital, subsequent proceedings against him in Europe and the US, and period spent in the Irish Republic, Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvan, held that any delay in the trial was his responsibility.
“We do not consider that any of the grounds of appeal have been made out and we do not consider the convictions are unsafe,” the judge confirmed.