Judge rules out compensation for man cleared over bomb plot

Castlereagh RUC station which housed the controversial Holding Centre where terrorist suspects were interrogated
Castlereagh RUC station which housed the controversial Holding Centre where terrorist suspects were interrogated

A man whose conviction for conspiracy to murder soldiers in an IRA bomb attack was quashed is not entitled to compensation, a High Court judge has ruled.

Lord Justice Gillen dismissed Gerard Magee’s legal challenge to a decision by the Justice Minister to deny him a pay-out.

Mr Magee, 49, was jailed for 20 years over an alleged plot to attack British troops in 1988.

He served nearly half his sentence before being released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Magee, originally from Antrim but now living in Co Tyrone, always claimed a confession he made was the result of ill-treatment by police during questioning at Castlereagh Holding Centre in Belfast.

In 2000 the European Court of Human Rights held that his admissions, after he had been denied access to a solicitor for two days, were in breach of his right to a fair trial.

Mr Magee’s conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal a year later following a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Under legislation anyone who has a guilty verdict against them reversed on the ground of a new or newly discovered fact showing beyond reasonable doubt a miscarriage of justice will be paid compensation.

Earlier this year the Department of Justice refused Mr Magee’s application, deciding no such new fact had been established.

He issued judicial review proceedings in a bid to have that assessment quashed.

His lawyers argued that the denial of legal advice during “oppressive” conditions at Castlereagh Holding Centre constituted new facts.

But ruling on the challenge on Friday, Lord Justice Gillen pointed out that the refused access to a solicitor and the coercive atmosphere at the police base were known to Magee and his lawyers at the time of the trial and subsequent appeals.

He backed submissions by counsel for the department that it was only through changes to the wider law and legal standards that these “new facts” have taken on a greater significance.

Dismissing the application, the judge said: “The instant case is an illustration of where a change in legal standard subsequent to the trial and conviction of an applicant whose conviction was in accordance with the law at the time of trial cannot be viewed as the discovery of a new fact demonstrating that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.”

Outside court Mr Magee’s solicitor, Fearghal Shiels, said: “We are disappointed with the judgment and will be carefully considering the merits of an appeal.”