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Terrorist chief Michael McKevitt denied early jail release

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Michael McKevitt

Michael McKevitt

Michael McKevitt

DISSIDENT republican leader Michael McKevitt - who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for directing terrorism - has lost his High Court action aimed at securing his early release.

McKevitt (65), of Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth, was jailed in 2003, backdated to 2001, for directing terrorism and membership of the Real IRA.

McKevitt argued his participation in structured prison activities, including yoga classes, meant he was entitled to enhanced remission of his sentence and he should be released immediately.

He brought a legal challenge, opposed by the State, claiming the Minister for Justice is obliged to approve time off for good behaviour.

Yoga

He argued he is entitled to one third remission because he has participated in structured prison activities including courses in computing, art, French, yoga, and an Open University course in creative writing during his incarceration at Portlaoise Prison.

The minister's counsel argued she was entitled to refuse remission on grounds including that gardai felt there was a serious risk of him re-offending.

In a judgment yesterday, Mr Justice Peter Kelly agreed with the minister, who he found was entitled to refuse McKevitt's application for enhanced remission.

The judge said there was "ample material" before the minister to enable her to form the view she did. He also said two previous judgments in which the High Court ruled other prisoners were entitled to enhanced remission for carrying out structured activities were "simply incorrect."

In dismissing the case, the judge said the fact McKevitt had engaged in a number of activities aimed at reducing the risk of re-offending and better reintegration into the community did not automatically entitle him to an early release.

"An automatic assumption that the mere engagement in authorised structured activities reduces the likelihood of re-offending could bring about absurd results," he said.

The minister was entitled to take into account all the information submitted which led to her decision.

The judge noted garda submissions to the minister said McKevitt would "re-engage in dissident Republican activity at a senior level upon his release".

This was based on factors such as the illegal organisation McKevitt represented at the time of his conviction continues to pose a threat to the State and Northern Ireland.

boost

McKevitt's release would undoubtedly provide a major boost to his illegal organisation, the garda submission added.

Other submissions stated the prison wing where McKevitt and other republican prisoners are incarcerated is one where the prisoners operate quasi-military structures reflecting their membership of prescribed organisations.

"Even if one was to exclude the garda views" the judge said it "was clear" there was "abundant information furnished to the minister" which would enable her to form the view that McKevitt was not entitled to enhanced remission.

With the normal one quarter remission generally afforded to prisoners McKevitt release date is scheduled for July 2016.

hnews@herald.ie


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