Republican News · Thursday 8 June 1999

[An Phoblacht]

European Court slams British government

BY CAÍTLIN DOHERTY

Once again, the British government has come under the spotlight of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and once again its human rights practises have been slammed.

On Tuesday, 6 June, the Court gave its ruling on two cases brought forward by two former republican POWs, Gerard Magee and Liam Averill.

In the case of Gerard Magee, the Court found the British government in unequivocal breach of one of the most important articles of the European Convention on Human Rights.

It ruled that the County Antrim man was denied a fair trial because he was refused access to a solicitor during the interviews that led to his conviction. The British government was ordered to pay 10,000 in legal costs and expenses.

Gerard Magee was arrested in December 1988 and detained in Castlereagh over two days without access to a solicitor. The only so-called evidence used by a Diplock court in 1991 to convict Magee was his own statement. The statement was beaten out of him during the 48-hour period during which he was denied access to legal advice.

He then appealed his conviction, but this was dismissed by the Six-County Court of Appeal in 1994. He subsequently lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights but served the majority of his ten-year sentence.

A solicitor acting for Magee said: "This decision, taken in conjunction with the European Court's decision in the case of Murray, raises the prospect that any conviction over the last 12 years based on confessions obtained in Castlereagh or Gough Barracks in the absence of a solicitor will be open to challenge on the basis that they are unsafe and in breach of the right to a fair trial."

In the case of Liam Averill, the court ruled that his basic human rights had also been violated because he too had been refused access to a solicitor during the first 24 hours of questioning.

Both cases are a further indictment of British government practises and highlight the need for a total overhaul of the policing and so-called justice system in the Six Counties.

Patricia Coyle, Solicitor of Madden & Finucane, Solicitors, acting for Mr Magee stated on Tuesday, 6 June: "This decision, taken in conjunction with the European Court's decision in the case of Murray, raises the prospect that any conviction over the last 12 years based on confessions obtained in Castlereagh or Gough Barracks in the absence of a solicitor will be open to challenge on the basis that they are unsafe and in breach of the right to a fair trial."


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