Ex-judge questions garda killer's conviction for 'capital' murder
FORMER Supreme Court judge Hugh O'Flaherty has said it is "difficult to see" how a man who served 29 years in jail was convicted of 'capital murder' in the first place.
Noel Callan was given the death penalty in 1985 for the murder of Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey but later had his sentence commuted by the president to life.
And Callan recently won a Supreme Court challenge, which entitles him to remission of up to one-third on his 40-year sentence.
In today's Irish Independent, Mr O'Flaherty writes: "The supreme irony about the case is that, on the facts, it is difficult to see how he should have been convicted of capital murder in the first place."
Callan began his action in 2007. According to the Supreme Court judgment: "The State's initial defence was that the president had commuted the death sentence to Penal Servitude on condition that the 'full sentence of 40 years' would be served without remission."
Callan argued that this was against prison rules after the abolition of 'penal servitude'.
After four years the State then changed its defence, to argue that he wasn't serving a 'sentence' as such, but 'a commutation' by the president and therefore he was not entitled to the normal remission terms offered to other prisoners.
Callan was involved in a robbery in Ardee, Co Louth, with an accomplice Michael McHugh but wasn't present when McHugh shot Sgt Morrissey twice, killing him with a shot to the head.
But because he did not put that scenario forward as a defence at his trial, he was convicted of murder and then sentenced to death.