Sunday 28 December 2014

McKevitt release judgement delayed

Published 20/08/2014 | 15:11

Michael McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in August 2003
Michael McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in August 2003

Alleged Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt will have to wait until at least next week to hear if he will get out of jail early.

Judge Bernard Barton told Dublin's High Court he was reserving judgement on an application for remission until a separate case is heard in a higher court.

The Supreme Court is hearing an appeal about another prisoner who was let out of jail early under good behaviour rules.

Judge Barton said this ruling would deal with McKevitt's claim to be let out.

McKevitt's case has been put back until next Monday.

Judge Barton also refused a bail application.

McKevitt was jailed for 20 years in August 2003, convicted of directing a terrorist organisation and being a member of the Real IRA.

The sentence, handed down by the non-jury Special Criminal Court, was backdated to 2001.

Lawyers for McKevitt argued he was entitled to remission, reduced imprisonment, of one third rather than the usual quarter.

But barrister Diarmaid McGuinness SC, representing the state, said the minister had to determine the inmate's likelihood of reoffending.

Judge Barton said the case was a matter of public importance as well as importance to McKevitt himself, adding that he had reconsidered his decision to make a judgement today.

The Supreme Court is expected to meet on Friday to rule on the legality of a High Court decision last month to free Eddie Ryan Junior, the son of a murdered Limerick gangster, who was jailed for weapons offences.

It was ruled he was being held unlawfully after Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald refused to grant him one-third remission of his sentence, under prison rules for good behaviour, instead of the usual quarter.

Barrister Michael O'Higgins SC, representing McKevitt, said it was very disappointing that no judgement was made during the hearing as the whole point of bringing the case was that it be heard as soon as possible.

Insisting on making a bail application, Mr O'Higgins said McKevitt maintains he is being kept in unlawful custody and should not remain so to accommodate an appeal in another case.

"This is an issue of liberty.. It's not something that can be compromised," he said.

The barrister said McKevitt's record shows he was temporarily released and returned to custody.

But state barrister Mr McGuinness said that was on humanitarian grounds to visit his ill mother and would not be relevant to any bail application, which he said would be strenuously opposed.

Judge Barton suggested bail be applied for before another judge tomorrow, as he was not available for the rest of the week.

But when Mr O'Higgins pressed for the application to be heard - telling the judge "the duty falls on you" to decide on a bail hearing - Judge Barton refused the application.

Judge Barton said there are a lot of matters about the case that were troubling him, not just the legal issues.

McKevitt, 59, from Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth, was not in court for the hearing.

He was the first person in the Republic of Ireland jailed for directing terrorism.

Belfast's High Court ruled in 2009 that McKevitt and three other men were responsible for the 1998 Omagh bomb, killing 29 people and unborn twins.

He did not face criminal charges in relation to the atrocity.

Press Association

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