Forced confessions come back before the courts

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Two of those who were beaten into making admissions about IRA attacks by Crown Force interrogators 45 years ago have had mixed outcomes in the battle to overturn their convictions.

Patrick Thompson’s conviction had been referred to the Court of Appeal by a body which examines potential miscarriages of justice. He made admissions in custody which his lawyers argued were the result of ill-treatment by the RUC.

As a result of the confession for an IRA attack in 1975 in which four British soldiers died, he received a life sentence.

He has now been given hope in his legal bid to clear his name, and a court in Belfast has now agreed to list the case for a full hearing in May next year.

In 2018 Thompson applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) in an attempt to have his case reassessed.

Earlier this year the body announced that it had found “compelling evidence” that called into question the credibility of a senior investigating policeman who questioned him during his arrest.

The CCRC referred Thompson’s case for fresh judicial consideration because of the real possibility his conviction will be found to be unsafe.

Outside court his lawyer, Padraig O Muirigh, said: “Our client welcomes the decision to set a provisional date for hearing in May 2023. There is a very real possibility that the Court of Appeal will conclude that Mr Thompson’s conviction is unsafe.”

However, a woman who was beaten as a teenage girl into making admissions about republican attacks, also 45 years ago, has lost a legal battle to have her convictions overturned.

Patricia Wilson has always maintained that RUC men investigating attacks on two shops in Belfast repeatedly punched, slapped and threatened her during interrogation.

Arrested as a 17-year-old, she was taken to the RUC’s infamous Castlereagh base (pictured) and interrogated over three days without a lawyer until the admissions were forthcoming.

Two RUC men at Castlereagh tried to break her arms and said she would need a hospital when they had finished with her. She was hit hard in the stomach, thrown against a wall, and told she could be raped without anyone knowing.

Despite making complaints to a doctor of being physically assaulted and verbally abused at the time, her trial did not hear any details of her ill-treatment.

In 2014 Ms Wilson applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission to examine her convictions, but the body refused to refer her case to the Court of Appeal.

Defence lawyers sought an extension of time to mount a further challenge, based on previously undisclosed evidence, but this week the three-judge panel was unable to reach a unanimous conclusion in the case, with two judges claiming her evidence was “contradictory and unreliable”.

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