News Courts

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Suspect for a murder in Northern Ireland claims he faces a 'significant risk to his life' if he’s handed over to UK authorities, court told

Francis Lanigan was arrested in January 2013 on foot of an extradition warrant in connection with the murder of John Knocker

Published 04/07/2014 | 18:08

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The 49-year-old was arrested in January, 2013, on foot of an extradition warrant in connection with the murder of John Knocker, who was shot dead in a hotel car park in Dungannon, Co Tyrone on May 31, 1998.

A SUSPECT for a murder in the North claims he faces a “significant risk to his life” if he’s handed over to UK authorities to face prosecution, a court was told.

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Francis Lanigan, with an address at Pinebrook, Mulhuddart in Dublin, is fighting his extradition to Northern Ireland.

The 49-year-old was arrested in January, 2013, on foot of an extradition warrant in connection with the murder of John Knocker, who was shot dead in a hotel car park in Dungannon, Co Tyrone on May 31, 1998.

At an extradition hearing in the High Court, Mr Lanigan’s counsel Dr Michael Forde SC said his client feared his life would be placed under “significant threat” if “he’s surrendered (to the authorities in Northern Ireland)”.

Dr Forde also argued that a letter from the Northern Ireland Prison Service outlining plans for Mr Lanigan’s detention should be ruled as inadmissible because he did not have had the opportunity to cross-examine the author of the letter.

Dr Forde told the court yesterday: “All other cases involving the UK involved affidavit evidence. Mr Lanigan is entitled to equality under the law.”

Aileen Donnelly SC, for the Minister of Justice, said the letter was acceptable under the terms of the legislation covering European arrest warrants as it contained information for the court from a ‘central authority’.

But Dr Forde claimed that the letter was hearsay and should be treated in the same way as newspapers reports about his client that claimed Mr Lanigan was a “dead man” if he ever returned to Northern Ireland.

Dr Forde added: “Mr Lanigan’s claim (that his life would be at risk) is supported by a retired solicitor who knows what is going on on the ground up there.”

In his submission to the High Court, Dr Forde cited the case of Faisal al-Sadoon, an Iraqi arrested over the murder of British soldiers in Iraq in 2003.

Following Mr al-Sadoon’s arrest, Iraqi law was changed to include the death penalty.

Later, European Court of Human Rights found that the UK had violated Mr al-Sadoon’s human rights by placing him "at real risk of being subjected to an unfair trial followed by execution by hanging".

In the context of this decision, Dr Ford added that there were three questions the court had to address. Firstly, was there sufficient evidence of risk to life? Secondly, was there sufficient evidence that this risk could be averted? And thirdly, was there an alternative means to bring his client to justice, such as prosecuting him here?

The High Court previously heard that Mr Lanigan was arrested at a Dublin gym where he was working as a self-employed barber.

He first gave his arresting garda a false name, and later said he was working under the name, Kieran McCrory, for his own protection for the past 15 years.

Mr Lanigan was remanded in custody until July 24.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy reserved her judgment until a later date.

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