Saturday 24 August 2019

Murder suspect and former paramilitary has come before 'at least nine' High Court judges

The High Court, Dublin
The High Court, Dublin

Ruaidhrí Giblin

A Belfast man, and former republican paramilitary, wanted for a murder in Co Tyrone almost 20 years ago continues to fight his extradition through the courts.

Northern Irish authorities are seeking the surrender of Francis Lanigan (53), with an address in west Dublin, for one offence of murder and one offence of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. The offences relate to the alleged murder of John Knocker, who was shot dead in a hotel car park in Dungannon, Co Tyrone on May 31, 1998.

In January 2013, Mr Lanigan was arrested by gardaí on foot of a European Arrest Warrant at a Dublin gym where he was working as a self-employed barber. Upon his arrest, he gave a false name and later said he had been working under the name “Ciaran McCrory” for his own protection for the previous 15 years.

Gardai were aware Mr Lanigan was living under that name before his arrest because a detective had covertly gone to the gym where he worked, had done a DNA test on a coffee cup and ascertained that the man living as “Ciaran McCrory” was really Mr Lanigan.

If extradited, he claims his life would be at risk from loyalist and republican paramilitaries.

In an affidavit, Mr Lanigan stated that he joined the Provisional IRA aged 17 and, at or about the age of 19, he joined the “younger National Liberation Army (INLA)”.

He stated that in 1984, he was convicted of being part of an INLA active service unit and sentenced to ten years imprisonment in the “Republican H Block”.

Mr Lanigan stated that by 1991, he was a “significant member” of the INLA. The RUC informed him that his personal details were “in the hands of loyalists” and that he was advised to change his routines.

In 1993, he stated that a group belonging to the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) tried to murder him but they shot the wrong man.

“Things continued at a frenetic pace for months and there were a lot of INLA attacks on British forces and loyalists and vice versa. I was starting to burn out from the pace of things. I wore body armour every day and I could not live a normal life.”

By the mid 1990s, Mr Lanigan stated that a feud between INLA Belfast brigade and INLA GHQ “began intensifying”.

“The INLA Belfast brigade tried to kill anyone involved in the feud who was a member or even an associate of members of INLA GHQ with which I was associated.”

He stated that his “increased stature” caused his relationship with a named individual to “disimprove”. He stated that he faced an INLA court martial and as a result was shot in the leg.

He stated that in May 1998, “I was attacked outside the Glengannon Hotel and, arising from that, John Knocker lost his life.”

“Whereas some particulars of that incident are included in the European Arrest Warrant, it is not a forthright account. I am seeking the production of the CCTV evidence and in light of the admitted and proven collusion of the Northern Ireland state officials with loyalist paramilitaries; I believe that this Honourable court should have regard to that in considering the European Arrest Warrant.”

“I came south in the aftermath of that incident to protect my life and safety. If my presence here was known to the authorities, I do not understand why, if my surrender was to be requested, it was not sought in 1998 or shortly thereafter.”

The High Court ordered Mr Lanigan's surrender to northern Irish authorities in August, 2015. However, a “number of strands” of legal proceedings remain ongoing.

In January, Mr Justice Richard Humphrey's said there had been four sets of High Court proceedings related to the proposed surrender of Mr Lanigan to Northern Ireland.

Mr Justice Humphreys said the matter had come before “at least nine” High Court judges “(Murphy J., Edwards J., Peart J., White J., Hunt J., Barrett J., Butler J., Noonan J. and myself)”. He said the matter had come before the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court “on multiple occasions” and “on one occasion” the European Court of Justice.

There has been a challenge to the constitutionality of the European Arrest Warrant Act, a referral of questions to the European Court of Justice, two Article 40 “Habeus Corpus” applications and Mr Lanigan's lawyers have sought to revisit numerous decisions in the case, Mr Justice Humphreys said.

Counsel for Mr Lanigan, Dr Michael Forde SC, brought an appeal against the judgment of Mr Justice Humphrey's today/yesterday(WEDNESDAY) as well as an appeal against an order of Mr Justice Michael White.

He said his client, who is on bail, was being unlawfully detained and that Mr Justice White made no findings of fact in his judgment.

The three-judge Court of Appeal said it would reserve its judgment.

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