The mother of 15-year old sectarian murder victim Thomas Devlin has called on senior prosecutors to “seriously consider their own positions” over their initial decision not to pursue his killers.
Loyalists Gary Taylor and Nigel Brown, both from Mount Vernon in north Belfast, were found guilty by the jury in just 90 minutes following a six week trial.
But Penny Holloway and Jim Devlln had to fight to ensure Taylor and Brown were convicted of the brutal killing of the schoolboy in August 2005.
They said the guilty verdict fully vindicated pressure they put on Crown prosecutors to bring the case.
The family are now seeking top-level meetings to call for an urgent overhaul of the Public Prosecution Service in the North (PPS) by outside experts.
“Our grief has been compounded by the spectacular, public and abysmally abject failure of the PPS to properly carry out its function in this case,” Ms Holloway said.
The 15-year-old was strolling home with two school friends when they noticed the pair “a good distance” behind them walking a s mall black dog.
The teenagers were unperturbed initially. It was close to midnight and the street was quiet on a clear summer night.
But, despite being just yards from his own home, something unnerved Thomas, causing him to shout a warning to his friends to run.
Glancing back, they noticed the pair had made up the distance between them with startling speed.
The pair shouted something like “f***ing b******s” and gave chase.
Jonathan McKee, then 18 years old, had run only a few steps when he felt blows raining down on his head and shoulders.
As he stumbled and fell he saw Taylor, the taller of the two, run past him towards where Thomas and their friend Fintan Maguire were.
Jonathan described catching a glimpse of a “varnished piece of wood” between one and two feet long as it was “wildly swinging” at his head and body.
Brown’s attack was carried out in grim silence, with the schoolboy pleading “don’t, please stop” to no effect. In the end he escaped with fairly minor injuries. His younger friend was not so lucky.
Fintan Maguire managed to scramble over a fence into the grounds of a nearby school but Thomas had been seized by Taylor and was being stabbed mercilessly.
During the frenzied assault he was knifed four times in the back, twice in the arm, and once in the left eye, abdomen and hip.
His injuries were so serious he did not stand a chance of survival.
Had it not been for the family’s tenacious refusal to give up, the case might never have gone before a jury.
The couple were key to the prosecution of their son’s killing as a “joint-venture murder”. Although Gary Taylor was the one who dealt the fatal stab wound, they long argued that Nigel Brown was just as liable lor Thomas’s murder.
They had studied similar cases brought by Crown prosecutors in England including a 2006 case in which a man was charged with joint-venture murder after handing a knife to a friend who then stabbed a man to death.
Ms Holloway said the decision to prosecute only came when the evidence was reviewed by independent English lawyers who decided that it formed a “compelling circumstantial case”.
Sinn Fein President and west Belfast MP Gerry Adams called for “a root and branch reform of the Public Prosecution System and for greater transparency within the PPS and judicial system”.
Mr Adams said the “inadequate” response by the PPS to the murder was the “latest example of how badly the Public Prosecution Service is dealing with serious cases.
“There would not have been a prosecution in this case if it had not been for the diligence and determination of Thomas Devlin’s parents.
“The PPS also grievously mishandled the Harry Holland case and in particular the way in which murder charges against two of those involved were reduced.
“The Good Friday Agreement envisaged a wide-ranging review of the criminal justice system which led to the Criminal Justice Review published in March 2000.
“Sinn Fein has sought through negotiations on policing and justice, including amending justice legislation and the transfer of powers, to create a situation where the PPS is accountable for the decisions it makes. An important element in this accountability framework is the role and the powers of a local Attorney General.
“The report of the Criminal Justice Inspectorate in August 2007 on the PPS identified 40 weaknesses requiring action. Last year a further report was issued reiterating deficiencies in the PPS.
“There needs to be a root and branch reform of the PPS.
“The transfer of policing and justice powers represents a unique opportunity to begin this process and to construct a public prosecution service that is representative of and accountable to the community and free from partisan political control. Sinn Fein is committed to the achieving these ends.”