Irish Republican News · February 14, 2015
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Vindication for Ballymurphy man


A man tortured during the Ballymurphy Massacre and who was subsequently convicted of rioting has had his conviction quashed, some 44 years later.

Terry Laverty, and his brother John, were caught up in an attack on their local area by the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, in what become known as the Ballymurphy Massacre, August 9th to 11th 1971.

The incident claimed 11 lives, including Terry’s brother John. A priest and a mother-of-eight were also among the civilians shot dead. Many others were injured.

Terry Laverty was detained, stripped, beaten, and made to run barefoot over broken glass and through a gauntlet of British Army soldiers who beat him. One soldier told him he’d ‘already killed one Irish bastard and that another wouldn’t matter.’ This same soldier put his gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Unknown to the then 18-year-old, the safety was on.

Mr Laverty was then taken to Girdwood Barracks and held for 56 hours were he was further tortured. He was then charged with riotous behaviour and brought directly to court in a forced state of undress and with glass still in his bloodied feet, unaware that his brother John had been murdered only yards from where he was assaulted.

In court this week it was announced that Crown prosecutors were not resisting the appeal, and that the conviction and sentence were quashed. Family and friends gathered alongside Mr Laverty applauded in court.

Mr Laverty’s barrister stressed that the solitary evidence came from a paratrooper who claimed to have memorised the faces of rioters. But the soldier had just signed a witness statement without reading its contents.

Outside court Mr Laverty said he had finally been proven innocent whereas the paratrooper had admitted his guilt. He also spoke about the killing of his brother John.

“As he lay in the street bleeding to death I was being arrested, just yards away,” he said.

“It was two days before I knew he was dead and almost two days before my parents knew that I was not.”

He said that the conviction had been a heavy blow.

“It’s not easy to describe the pain I went through.

“My family was totally shattered, everyone of my brothers and sisters were totally shattered.

“All along I was an innocent man, along with everyone else in Ballymurphy, the people who died.”

He said all those affected by the tragic events in what has become known as the Ballymurphy massacre deserved to see the full truth of what happened revealed.

Mr Laverty said his wrongful conviction and imprisonment was based on the word of a soldier who had lied.

“He lied in his statement and he lied in court. I was not rioting. There was no riot,” he said.

Mr Laverty’s lawyer, Joe McVeigh, said efforts would be made to have the soldier questioned and charged with perjury.

“Forty-four years later it’s clearly in the public interest to do so,” he said.

“We also intend to issue civil proceedings on behalf of Mr Laverty given the wrongful conviction and the damage to his good name and reputation.”

The Deputy Director of Relatives for Justice, Andree Murphy, said: “This is an important step forward in addressing an egregious violation that by any standard constitutes a war crime.

“There will be many others who were also subjected to such torture and hopefully the courage of Terry will give them hope to come forward.”

In a statement released later, Mr Laverty thanked Relatives for Justice and his lawyers.

“My brother John was murdered. I owe it to my family and my brother’s memory to ensure that the lies are challenged and the truth is officially told about what really happened over those three days in August 1971.

“I believe that the soldier who made reference to killing ‘one Irish bastard’ was the same soldier who killed my brother John.

“My parents went to their grave without the truth being officially acknowledged and told. They had to live with the loss of their son John, and the official lies.

“I can still see my father standing in the public gallery of the court where I appeared after being tortured. I can’t imagine his anguish bearing up and supporting us all, with John’s body still in the morgue. And how he broke that awful news to me and yet also struggled to get bail for me to attend John’s funeral.

“My mother’s dignity and love saw us through those darkest of days.

“I’ve gained my courage from both of their memories.

“This is a significant step towards righting a terrible injustice and setting the record straight. There remains a distance to go but this is a good first step.”

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