A former IRA man seeking to overturn his conviction for attempting to murder a soldier more than 30 years ago has been granted an appeal to the UK’s highest court.
The Supreme Court hearing will decide whether admissions made by Gerry McGeough during a Swedish asylum application should have been relied upon during his 2011 trial.
He is at the centre of separate claims that Downing Street asked police to release terror suspects following pressure from Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. A senior detective has described the Government’s alleged intervention during his questioning as an attempt to pervert the course of justice.
McGeough’s solicitor, Aiden Carlin, said: “In addition to the new headline facts disclosed about Gerry McGeough’s case, there are important aspects of European and domestic law which say his conviction is unsafe.
“Not least, the evidence adduced at Gerry McGeough’s trial from an alleged asylum application made 30 years ago in Sweden.
“The receipt of such evidence at his trial was a breach of common law rules and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to a fair trial).
“EU law recognises the need for a common policy of protection for asylum seekers yet in Gerry McGeough’s case this was repeatedly ignored.”
McGeough was jailed for 20 years for the attempted murder in 1981 of a soldier. He had been on the run from justice for many years.
He was freed last year under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
His case prompted calls from some republicans, including a former member of the Irish government, for him to be set free, but generated fury from unionists and victims angered at the length of his sentence.
Those convicted of paramilitary offences before the signing of the 1998 Agreement, which largely ended violence, can only serve two years of their sentences as part of measures agreed between the Government and Sinn Fein for dealing with prisoners.
Retired detective Norman Baxter gave evidence about McGeough’s arrest to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of MPs, which has begun an inquiry into the process for dealing with On The Runs (OTRs), Irish republicans who had received letters stating that they were not wanted by police for paramilitary crimes committed before the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement.
The letters came to light in February when the trial of John Downey for the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing was halted because he had mistakenly received one of those letters.
Mr Baxter told the committee the Sinn Fein president had put pressure on Downing Street to ask for the release of McGeough and another suspect.
They were wanted for questioning about the attempted murder of part-time Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier Sammy Brush and arrested on 8 March 2007.
Mr Adams dismissed the claim and former PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde said no such phone call from Downing Street was received.
A Supreme Court spokesman said: “I can confirm that a panel of three Supreme Court justices has granted permission to appeal in this case (parties were informed yesterday), on the issue of whether admissions made in the course of an asylum application can be relied upon in criminal proceedings.”