Britain admits miscarriage of justice
The conviction of former Sinn Féin publicity director Danny Morrison and others entrapped by IRA informer Sandy Lynch and Freddie Scappaticci have been deemed a miscarriage of justice.
The convictions of Mr Morrison, Gerard Hodgins and three others was overturned on appeal in 2008 but the court refused to admit its reasons for doing so.
However, outgoing British Direct Ruler Owen Paterson has now accepted that it amounted to a miscarriage of justice and agreed to pay compensation.
Lawyer Kevin Winters, who represents some of the group, said the decision had “huge legal significance”.
“This is the first case of its kind we are aware of in this jurisdiction and has the potential to open the flood gates for a huge deluge of linked cases,” he said.
Mr Morrison and others were arrested when British soldiers raided a house in Andersonstown, west Belfast, where Sandy Lynch was set to admit his role as a Special Branch police informer. Mr Morrison was preparing for a press conference at which Mr Lynch was to feature.
However, the Special Branch had choreographed the entire incident, including an ‘interrogation’ by IRA member Freddie Scappaticci, who was later unmasked as top-level British double-agent, Stakeknife. Following Mr Morrison’s arrival, the British Army swooped on the house, securing a number of high-profile arrests, including that of the Sinn Féin press officer.
Accused of IRA offences, Mr Morrison was sentenced to eight years in prison and was released in 1995. Mr Hodgins, another prominent republican, was sentenced to 12 years and served six.
Kevin Winters said the British acceptance Paterson that the case represented a miscarriage of justice was the first of its kind in the North of Ireland.
“It is unprecedented and long overdue,” he said.
It is being seen as the first time the British state has effectively accepted the use of entrapment is unlawful.
It also raises a new question mark over the convictions of ‘dissident’ republicans Michael Campbell and Michael McKevitt, who were also arrested and imprisoned following targeted stings involving double agents and invented scenarios. Both men, serving sentences in Lithuania and the 26-County state respectively, are seeking to have their convictions overturned.
Responding to Mr Paterson’s decision on compensation, Mr Hodgins said the slow progress in the case had been frustrating. He also called on secret police files seen by the appeal court -- a ‘confidential annex’ -- to be revealed.
“While they are absolutely acknowledging we were victims of a miscarriage of justice, [the state] are still refusing to release the information in the confidential annex, which reveals why we were acquitted.
“While that information remains secret we are being denied proper justice.
“To my knowledge an assessor [for compensation] has yet to be appointed which has led to yet further delays for myself and the other victims who have waited over 20-years for justice.”