Sunday 25 February 2018

Decision expected on alleged IRA leader Michael McKevitt's application for release from Portlaoise prison

McKevitt claims he is entitled to an enhanced one-third remission of his 20-year sentence instead of the usual 25 percent

Portlaoise Prison
Portlaoise Prison

By Saurya Cherfi

Mr Justice Bernard Barton will give his decision tomorrow at 2pm on the application for release from Portlaoise prison of alleged IRA leader Michael McKevitt.

McKevitt claims he is entitled to an enhanced one-third remission of his 20-year sentence instead of the usual 25 percent.

Michael O’Higgins SC told the High Court that Mr McKevitt ticked all the boxes for being granted enhanced remission as he had been engaged on a wide range of authorised structured activities and studies as required.

He said that according to very clear judgments by Mr Justice Max Barrett and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan, Mr McKevitt ought to have been released on July 26 last under Rule 59 (2) of the Prison Rules.

He said the rule allowed a prisoner to a one-third remission of sentence if he had had been of good conduct and had engaged in authorised structured activities to prepare him for release and reintegration into society and lead to his being less likely to re-offend.

Mr O’Higgins told the court the Minister for Justice had used “irrelevant considerations” such as a Garda Intelligence report to refuse Mr McKevitt full remission . 

Diarmaid McGuinness SC, who appeared with barrister Anne-Marie Lawlor for the State, said it would be a “manifest absurdity” if the Minister were to be prohibited from taking into consideration elements other than French or advanced maths studies in order to assess if a prisoner was less likely to reoffend.

Counsel told the court the rule gave no automaticity to accord a prisoner a full remission and the power was granted to the Minister, not to a prisoner who turned up at one or two activities.

Mr McGuinness said the rule required the Minister to assess Mr McKevitt’s risk to reoffend and she had found it had not been lessened by his engagement in structured activities. 

Counsel said Mr McKevitt had been convicted by the Special Criminal Court of directing a terrorist organisation and being a member of the Real IRA.

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