Child rapist and murderer wins €6,450 after European court ruling
The Government has been ordered to pay a killer and child rapist almost £5,000 because his demands to be released from prison were not met quickly enough.
Belfast man Christopher Doherty, who was returned to jail after he raped and sexually abused two little girls while on parole for murder, claimed that delays in reviewing his eligibility for release had left him "depressed" and breached his human rights.
The European Court of Human Rights yesterday agreed that the violent offender's rights had been violated and ordered the Government to pay him damages.
The decision has sparked outrage.
Doherty (55) - dubbed 'Joker' by fellow inmates at Maghaberry - was jailed for life in 1982 for the murder of a pensioner in Derry.
He and another man battered defenceless Gerald Farren to death and robbed him of £20.
After 14 years he was freed on licence, but less than a year later he was returned to jail after two young girls, aged just nine and 13, made allegations of serious sexual abuse against the killer.
A criminal prosecution was not taken to spare Doherty's young victims the ordeal of giving evidence in court.
Instead, the then Secretary of State Patrick Mayhew revoked his release licence and had him returned to jail, only to be released when the Life Sentence Review Board, later to be replaced by the Life Sentence Review Commissioners, felt he was no longer a danger to the public.
His detention was reviewed on a number of occasions between 1998 and 2008, but the review body refused to direct his release as it believed that he had committed the alleged offences and that there was a risk of committing further similar offences if released.
He was eventually released in October 2008.
Doherty then launched legal proceedings in the European Court of Human Rights against the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for damages.
He claimed that reviews of his continuing detention were not conducted speedily enough and that this "gave rise to feelings of frustration, anxiety and depression".
The DUP's Jonathan Craig slammed the ruling as "outrageous" and said it was an insult to Doherty's victims.
Mr Craig, who is chair of the Policing Board's performance committee - formerly the human rights committee - added: "The police and judiciary in Northern Ireland uphold the rights of every citizen to protect them from people like this.
"Here we have the European Court perversely taking the side of someone whose only purpose in life seems to be to destroy lives."
The MLA added: "This is yet another example where the ECHR had missed the point. More focus should be on the rights of law-abiding citizens, not criminals like this.
"This is an absurd decision and an insult to this man's victims."
Justice committee chairman Alastair Ross said: "Cases such as this are why people can lose faith in the criminal justice system and why the European Court can be held in such low regard.
"Irrespective of how 'anxious and depressed' this man claims to have been, it would be nothing in comparison to those whom he violated in the past."
In its ruling yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights agreed that Doherty's rights had been breached under Article 5/4 of the Convention - the right to have lawfulness of detention decided speedily by a court.
The court admitted, however, that some of the delays had been caused by Doherty and said that there was no evidence to suggest that had his detention been reviewed more regularly, he would have been released much earlier than he in fact was.
"On the contrary, prior to March 2008 there was no evidence to suggest that the risk he posed was 'manageable' in the community," the court added.
The court ordered that the Government pay Doherty €1,000 in damages as well as €5,000 to cover his costs and expenses.
Doherty had attempted to claim for £20,980 in costs and expenses - £12,960 of which were lawyers' fees - but the court said he had failed to itemise the figure.
The court rejected a claim from Doherty that his detention on recall to prison, between March 7, 1997 and October 7, 2008, had been unlawful.