The widow of a murdered RUC officer has urged victims and opponents of terrorism to sign a petition against pre-release leave for short sentence terrorist prisoners.
June McMullin’s husband, John Proctor, was gunned down in the car park of the Mid Ulster Hospital just after visiting his wife and newborn son in 1981.
Seamus Martin Kearney from Gorteade Road, Swatragh, Co Londonderry, was convicted of the murder in November 2013.
DNA found on a cigarette butt recovered from the scene later matched Kearney’s DNA profile.
The trial judge said in “all of the circumstances I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had smoked the cigarette and having finished smoking it, discarded it at or about the time of the shooting”.
At the time of the 54-year-old’s conviction, Mrs McMullin said it had brought her family some closure, even though he would only serve two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
A spokeswoman for the family said: “The process to seek justice, although difficult, has helped to bring truth – the facts and a level of understanding of what took place.
“Peace – peace to know that we have done all we can in the memory of Johnnie to seek justice. Healing – because of all of this to move forward, seeking a better future for the next generation. This is what processes like this allow families to do.”
However, Mrs McMullin was later shocked to discover that her husband’s killer was eligible for periods of pre-release leave despite serving only a faction of a normal life sentence.
With the backing of two victims’ groups, a petition has been launched at change.org in the hope of changing the rules on terrorist prisoners’ sentencing conditions.
“The petition isn’t just for Kearney himself, it’s across the board,” Mrs McMullin explained.
“He’s only doing two years but he’s getting out on two-day releases from now until November. It was bad enough he only got two years so we feel he should do two years. Why does he need back into society when he’s only been taken out of it for a year and a bit?”
Mrs McMullin said her own situation was particularly disturbing due to the close proximity between the killer’s and the victims’ homes.
“He only lives less than a mile from my home. There’s a fair chance that whenever I pull out on to the main Kilrea line that he could drive up to the junction.”
She added: “We were well aware when he got convicted he would only do two years, but I honestly thought that was it. I didn’t think he would get out [on pre-release leave] after one year.
“We are here 34 years living through this, but he doesn’t do 14 months and he’s looking out for day release, and 48-hour release, and has a whole pile of requests in.
“I think he has 48-hour pass requests in for every month from now to November.
“It doesn’t take into account the feelings of the victims, especially given that he lives so close.”
The online petition – ‘Stop terrorists convicted under the GFA getting day release during their 2 years in prison’ – is also supported by a paper version available for signing at victims’ groups across the Province.
The statement in support of the petition says: “Kearney has already been awarded more in legal aid than the Proctor family received in compensation for Johnnie’s murder.
“Mid Ulster Victims’ Empowerment (MUVE) urges you to sign the petition today to help keep convicted terrorists/murderers in for their designated time, disgracefully short though it may be.”
In March this year, following an application from Constable Proctor’s family, Kearney was refused an application to be released from prison over St Patrick’s Day.
Later this month, Belfast High Court will hear an application from Kearney to have his pre-release leave arrangements brought into line with other prisoners.
Mrs McMullin will be at the court hearing to show her objection to any possible relaxation of Kearney’s imprisonment terms.
He wants a judge to quash a Prison Service decision to impose an eight-hour limit on his periods outside jail.