A West Belfast man has told how his life was ruined as he struggled to overturn a miscarriage of justice imposed by a non-jury Diplock court in a trial 20 years ago.
Christy Walsh was jailed for 14 years after a British army foot patrol claimed they had round a coffee jar bomb in his pocket when he was stopped in an entry in west Belfast in 1991.
Last week, the Court of Appeal in Belfast finally quashed his conviction for possession or explosives after two previous appeals failed to do so.
The painter and decorator always maintained his innocence.
Concerns had been raised during the appeal that prosecutors had failed to disclose at the original trial that a senior IRA man had also been arrested in connection with the discovery of the coffee jar bomb.
The North’s most senior judge, Declan Morgan, also declared unease about the safety of Mr Walsh’s conviction due to concerns over alleged fingerprint evidence and a soldier’s statement.
“For those reasons we are left with a significant sense of unease about the safety of this verdict,” he said.
Speaking outside the court Mr Walsh revealed how the 2O-year battle to clear his name had led to the break-up of his marriage.
“This case has completely wrecked my life,~ he said. “I lost everything, including my wife and kids.
“I ended up sleeping on the streets.
“When I was living in Cork I was told a car containing loyalist explosives and my address had been intercepted by police.”
While satisfied that his name had now been cleared, Mr Walsh, who is in his last year of a law degree, was severely critical of the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).
“The whole thing was just to get my name cleared and to get it established that I was right and they were wrong,” he said.
“That was my driving force. But when you look at the recent cases of Robert Hamill and Thomas Devlin there’s a common thread that the PPS are obstructing cases and I think something needs to be done about that.
“There’s a lot of injustice out there in a lot of other cases.”
Mr Walsh’s solicitor Kevin Winters said his client would not only seek compensation lor the seven years he spent in prison but would also be launching a legal challenge against “unresolved issues of a very sensitive nature which had been raised during the latest appeal”.