The family of a murdered RUC officer have welcomed a court adjournment that prevents his killer being released from prison over the St Patrick’s Day festivities.
Seamus Kearney 58, of Gorteade Road, Maghera, was jailed for a minimum of 20 years in December 2013 for the murder of John Proctor in September 1981.
However, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement he is expected to be released from HMP Maghaberry in November after serving only two years of his sentence behind bars.
The Londonderry man’s lawyers revealed on Tuesday that he wants a 48-hour release to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with his wife and newborn son, and to see the GAA club he supports take part in an All-Ireland final.
A High Court judge on Friday put Seamus Kearney’s judicial review application on hold for a week after it emerged that two loyalists serving life sentences were granted the initial 48-hour home leave denied to him.
Mr Justice Treacy also refuted a press report that the RUC victim’s widow has been barred from taking part in the hearing.
Stressing that only permission for a lay person to represent June McMullin was refused, the judge insisted she is entitled to instruct lawyers if she wants to intervene in the case. He directed that all the papers are to be served on her, adding: “It seems to me she is a person who may well wish to participate.”
The adjournment has been given a guarded welcome by Constable Proctor’s widow June McMullin and her family, according to the Innocent Victims United (IVU) group.
IVU spokesman Kenny Donaldson said: “The Proctor and McMullin family circle are somewhat relieved by today’s adjournment which means that Seamus Kearney will remain behind bars over the Saint Patrick’s period however today’s small victory is far from the end of this issue. This issue goes to the heart of whose rights come first - the rights of innocent victims or the rights of convicted terrorists/criminals”.
Mr Donaldson said the advocacy service of JIVT (Justice for the Innocent Victims of Terrorism) would be supporting the Proctor and McMullin family as the Kearney case progresses, and added: “Instead of engaging in actions which have the impact of insulting and heaping hurt upon surviving families, he and others should be considering what they have done to their fellow human being.
“They should be seeking repentance and demonstrating remorse, serving the tariff and then upon release commit themselves to a new life where they seek to serve the community - not ravage the community.”
It was also stressed in court that Kearney has an entitlement to temporary release this month.
Stephen McQuitty, for the Prison Service, said: “The decision to grant this period of leave to the applicant in March had absolutely nothing to do with any sporting event or St Patrick’s Day.”