Hundreds more legal actions follow Gerry Adams internment judgement in Supreme Court

At least 230 new legal challenges have been launched by former internees just two weeks after Gerry Adams had two convictions quashed by the Supreme Court.

By Mark Rainey
Friday, 29th May 2020, 4:42 pm
Updated Friday, 29th May 2020, 4:51 pm
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) along with ex-IRA leader Brendan Hughes when they were imprisoned in Long Kesh (Maze) in the 1970s.
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) along with ex-IRA leader Brendan Hughes when they were imprisoned in Long Kesh (Maze) in the 1970s.

Earlier this month, the UK’s highest court ruled that the former Sinn Fein president should not have been found guilty of unlawfully attempting to escape from Long Kesh in the 1970s as his internment was not properly authorised.

The judges deemed Mr Adams’ detention unlawful because it had not been “considered personally” by the then NI Secretary William Whitelaw.

With those convictions quashed Mr Adams, who has consistently denied having been in the IRA, has had his criminal record expunged.

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The ruling has also bolstered legal challenges that were already being progressed prior to the Adams judgement.

Although the vast majority of cases relate to republicans and those from predominantly nationalist areas of Northern Ireland, at least 19 of the claims involve former loyalist internees.

Solicitor Pádraig Ó Muirigh, who is representing 200 claimants, said they were challenging the Interim Custody Orders (ICO) during the period 1972-1975 “in light of the recent R v Adams Supreme Court judgment”.

He said: “In circumstances where it was the function and sole responsibility of the Secretary of State to properly consider each and every application for an ICO, we will be putting the Secretary of State to his proofs to demonstrate such lawful consideration was given in relation to each of our clients.

“Since the Supreme Court judgment we have been reviewing our clients’ prison files and have found an absence of evidence of consideration of the applications by the relevant Secretary of State, whether during the tenure of William Whitelaw, Francis Pym or indeed Merlyn Rees”.

Mr Ó Muirigh added: “We are also reviewing the lawfulness of the detention without trial of around a further 200 clients from the August 9, 1971 until November 1972 under the earlier Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act 1922.”

Kevin Winters of KRW Law is acting on behalf of 30 former republican internees and 19 loyalists.

He said: “The first so called ex-loyalist internment case was due for full hearing before the High Court on May 19, 2020 but was taken out because of the Covid-19 crisis.

“The adjournment could not have been more timely given the prospective significance of the Adams ruling on both sets of cases. From initial assessment on some of the papers it seems the necessary protocol was not in place including crucially an absence of the signature of the Secretary of State on the ICOs.”

Mr Winters added: “We have today (Friday) filed a summons in the High court to amend the pleadings in the lead internment challenge to take into account the Supreme Court ruling.

“We expect the case to be heard later this year when the full impact of that ruling will be made known. That in turn will be of huge relevance to all internment cases collectively.”