All charges against an Armagh man accused of killing a prison warder have been dropped amid allegations he was a victim of ‘internment by remand’.
Sean McVeigh spent months behind bars but had always denied any involvement in the ‘new IRA’ gun attack in which controversial prison official David Black died. He was the only person charged with the killing.
The 52-year-old Maghaberry warder was shot dead as he travelled to work along the M1 motorway in November 2012. He had previously worked in Long Kesh during the hunger strike and blanket protest.
A lawyer for Mr McVeigh has confirmed he intends to sue Crown prosecutors and the PSNI police for the time he has spent in custody.
When he was first arrested and charged in February, Mr McVeigh’s lawyers had immediately requested that prosecutors review the case insisting there was no evidence against their client.
The 33-year-old said he was relieved to be free and “glad it has come to an end”.
“It was clear to see what it was from the start,” he said. “It was stated in the interviews in Antrim police station there was no evidence there but they still went ahead with the charge. It’s a concern because they (PSNI and PPS) get a free run and can hold you as long as they want with nothing coming from it.”
The Lurgan man said his ordeal has had a huge impact on his family life.
“I have been taken away and it has affected my work and everything with that,” he said. “I had a mortgage on a house and I had to get family members to keep it up. It has an impact.”
Mr McVeigh said his detention amounted to “internment by remand”.
“There are cases in the past the same as mine,” he said. “I am being released after five months. There are people in there (jail) a lot longer than me. It takes so little to make a charge and it’s five months you cannot replace.”
The Lurgan man is concerned that the episode will have an impact on his future employment prospects.
“I hope the [mainstream] media are as keen to promote my innocence as they were when I was arrested,” he said.
His lawyer Peter Corrigan said the PSNI had alleged “they discovered a hat, gloves and matches during a search at Mr McVeigh’s Victoria Street home and a car a day after the attack.
“We have always pointed to the fact that Mr McVeigh still possessed the matches which were brought in a shop near his home after the shooting happened and that the hat and gloves were found among his work tools in his own vehicle,” he said.
And there was no evidence to indicate that gloves or hats were used in the attack.
“From as early as the day our client was charged he put forward an alibi and from as early as the first day at court we have asked that the Public Prosecution Service review the charges against our client.
“There has been considerable adverse publicity for him and his family relating to this murder. It has now been proven that our client is totally innocent of the charges brought.
“My client will now be instigating civil proceedings against the PSNI and PPS for the time he has spent in custody as a result of same.”
A major human rights march through Belfast city centre on August 10th will focus on the use in the north of Ireland of internment, known in other jurisdictions as ‘administrative detention’.
The parade has been organised to coincide with the anniversary of the first introduction of internment on August 9 1971 when hundreds of nationalists across the north were detained without charge.
“Internment by remand is a policy of the British government to remove activists in order to silence them doing their work,” Mr McVeigh added.