Monday 27 March 2017

Convicted murderer 'at large' in Ireland claimed he couldn't return to UK because of Brexit

Robert Donovan (Photo: PA)
Robert Donovan (Photo: PA)

Alison O'Riordan

The High Court has ordered the extradition of a convicted murderer, who was “at large” in Waterford after failing to return from temporary release from a UK prison.

High court judge Ms Aileen Donnelly today delivered her judgement granting the State’s application for the extradition of Robert Donovan.

The 57-year-old who was born in London but with an address at Newtown Road, Waterford City, was arrested by gardai on foot of a European Arrest Warrant issued by UK authorities in November, 2014.

He had been serving a life sentence in the UK imposed at Bow Street Magistrates Court for the murder of a man on a London bridge in May 1974.

Delivering her judgement to the court today which ordered the extradition of Donovan to the UK, Ms Justice Donnelly said that “remaining unlawfully at large” since failing to return to prison was an offence “in excess of the minimum gravity.”

The judge said there was “simply no basis” for believing that there is a risk that any of the respondent’s rights will be violated when he is surrendered.

The court heard that a central issue in these proceedings was the recent referendum vote in the UK to leave the European Union.

Ms Justice Donnelly said the respondent had referred to “a risk of lack of protection of ECHR (European Convention on Human Rights) rights as a result of the UK leaving the European Union.”

“There is simply no evidence of any such threat. This is truly wild speculation,” she said.

Ms Justice Donnelly then made an order directing that Donovan be surrendered to the UK.

On June 19, 2010, Donovan was temporarily released from prison with a duty to return by 19.30 hours. He failed to return, was “unlawfully at large” and “believed to be residing in Waterford”, according to the warrant issued for his arrest.

The warrant stated that Donovan had been out with his brother and a friend in the early hours of May 14, 1974 when he met the victim, a Mr Thornley, who invited them to join him for a drink at a place he knew.

Their route took them across Hungerford Bridge where Donovan asked his brother’s friend for a flick-knife.

Donovan then put the knife to Mr Thornley’s throat and asked him what he had on him.

Mr Thornley was stabbed and died from a cut to this throat. His watch and golden bracelet were stolen, the warrant stated.

Gardai arrested Donovan on foot of the warrant in Waterford and he was taken to the High Court for extradition proceedings.

Donovan was remanded in custody today until October 21 when he is expected to be surrendered.

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