Convicted terrorist Seamus Martin Kearney, jailed for life for the IRA murder of part- time RUC man John Proctor 32 years ago, was told on Friday he should serve a minimum of 20 years for the brutal and futile killing.
However, in reality, he will serve less than two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Last month Belfast Recorder, Judge David McFarland, convicted 54-year-old Kearney of the reservist’s murder, telling him he was “either the gunman, the driver of the Ford Escort RS2000 (getaway car) or was an occupant of the car being present to provide support for the killing”.
Kearney, of Gorteade Road, Swatragh, Co Derry, had denied the murder of the 25-year-old reservist and possessing the Armalite AR15 assault rifle used to shoot him dead minutes after visiting his wife June, and new-born son, John Jr, at the Mid Ulster Hospital on September 14, 1981.
However, years later his DNA was found on a cigarette butt recovered from the murder scene, for which he had no answer.
This is the second time that Kearney was jailed for a terrorist gun attack. In December 1984 he was given 20 years, of which he served 10, for attempting to murder UDR soldiers, whose Land Rover came under fire from the same AR15 rifle used to kill Mr Proctor, as it drove through Swatragh in the direction of Maghera in November 1982.
On Friday Judge McFarland said he did “not take into account the release scheme under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement”. Quoting from two senior law lords, he added that the courts still had to determine the appropriate sentence regardless of any remission or parole it may attract.
The Belfast Crown Court judge said the shooting of Mr Proctor, even with “the passage of 30 years,has in no way diminished the brutality of this murder”.
However, Kearney heard little of Judge McFarland’s condemnation of him, having turned a deaf ear to proceedings. When brought into the dock, Kearney dismissed a fresh offer of earphones, telling the judge: “I don’t want to hear anything ... you continue on”.
Regardless, Judge McFarland told him that the policeman had been an easy target for Kearney and others who “were waiting for him”.
“I do not know,” the judge told an unlistening Kearney, “if you were the gunman, were driving the ‘getaway’ car, or were there to provide support”.
However, he added that in all of the circumstances his shooting “has to be one of the most appalling murders committed during that period of our history known as ‘the Troubles’. The passage of 30 years has in no way diminished the brutality of this murder.
“That a man can be targeted when he is attending a hospital to visit his wife and newly born son, continues to appal all right-minded members of society ... He was murdered in a most brutal fashion and given no chance to defend himself or escape.”