News Courts

Thursday 23 November 2017

Man who murdered garda to appeal decision rejecting remission of 40 year sentence

Tim Healy

A MAN convicted of capital murder is to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court early next year against the rejection of his bid to be considered for remission from his 40 year jail sentence.

The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, said today the appeal of Noel Callan, while it had been granted priority, was unlikely to be heard before January 2013.

Callan has served 26 years so far for the murder of a Garda Sergeant Patrick Morrissey.

Paul O'Higgins SC, for the State, said that, even if he won his appeal, Mr Callan was unlikely to be freed before 2016 but that was disputed by Deirdre Murphy SC, for Mr Callan who said, if he won, he would be eligibe for temporary release.

Mr Callan (48), Cullaville, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, has claimed he has unlawfully been deprived of a right of remission, which could reduce his 40 year term by up to one third.

He was aged 22 when convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court in December 1985 of the capital murder of Sergeant Morrissey (49) at Rathbrist, Tallanstown, on June 27, 1985 following an armed robbery the same day at Ardee Labour Exchange.

Sgt Morrissey was initially wounded by Mr Callan's co-accused Michael McHugh, Clonalig, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, who then went back and "executed" him, Callan's lawyers argued. Ms Murphy said Callan accepted he was part of a common design in relation to a robbery but was not in the vicinity when Sgt Morrissey was shot.

Both Mr Callan and Mr McHugh were sentenced to death for murder and 12 years for robbery but their death sentences were commuted to 40 years imprisonment.

In the High Court last year, Mr Justice Michael Hanna ruled Mr Callan was not eligible for remission under the Criminal Justice Act 1951, the Criminal Justice Act 1990 or the Prison Rules.

The judge also noted Mr Callan had "flourished artistically and intellectually" in prison and, at this remove from the crime, could advance "substantial arguments" his circumstances "should be looked at afresh".

Some might persuasively invoke fairness and compassion in aid of Mr Callan's plight while others might understandably take the view, given the "appalling nature of this crime inflicted on a courageous servant of the State", Mr Callan has already received "his full quotient of mercy", the judge added.

The court could not call in aid such conflicting statements to try and "shoehorn" Mr Callan into or out of a legal framework that simply does not fit, he said.

"In my opinion, these matters and their potential resolution (if any there be) lie outside the walls of these courts."

Among a series of claims, Mr Callan had argued the President's decision commuting his sentence contained no conditions in relation to remission and he was therefore eligible for standard remission.

Other persons convicted of the murder of gardai after passage of the Criminal Justice Act 1990 are entitled to seek remission, the court was told.

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