The grieving family of Gerard Devlin today declared they are intent on taking the decision not to prosecute members of the Notorantonio family for murder to the Attorney General.
Speaking as the family of the 39-year-old father-of-six protested outside Belfast Crown Court, Bernadette O’Rawe said they were "absolutely disgusted" at yesterday’s events.
The murder trial was dramatically halted when 21-year-old Francisco Notorantonio pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter and the other five, his two uncles 56-year-old Christopher and Anthony (50) and cousins 24-year-old William Notarantonio and Paul Oliver Burns (26), all pleaded guilty to fighting and making an affray in February 2006.
Outside the Laganside court complex today, members of |Mr Devlin’s family held placards aloft stating slogans such as ‘no to PPS secret deals’, ‘no justice here ... what price human life’.
Mrs O’Rawe, Mr Devlin’s aunt, said on behalf of the family: "We were absolutely devastated when the decision was made in there — within an hour of going in we were told it was affray.
"We are not taking this decision lying down, we are taking it to London to the Attorney General and wherever else we can go until we are satisfied that we have been heard."
She added: "Gerard’s life was taken off him but these people will get a slap on the wrist ... a slap on the wrist isn’t good enough."
Asked if the family had known about what was about to transpire, Mrs O’Rawe said they had "no clue whatsoever" and had been given no reason by the PPS as to why they decided to accept the pleas.
She went onto say that the family would have preferred the murder trial to continue, even if the six had been acquitted in the end because "at least we would have come away with the satisfaction that we were heard, that the evidence was tested".
The five Notorantonios, all from Whitecliff Parade, and Burns, from Dermot Hill Park, all Belfast, were all remanded into custody after trial judge Mr Justice Stephens heard that between the February 3 stabbing two years ago and last week, there had been 1,162 incidents in the Ballymurphy area.
He was told that "there are tensions, there was a background and remains a background and there are concerns about the policing of the area between now and the sentencing of the accused."
The six will be sentenced after pre-sentence probation reports have been completed.
Mr Devlin (39) was stabbed to death outside his Ballymurphy home in February 2006.
His death sparked a bitter neighbourhood dispute which has rumbled on for over two years.
As the defendants entered the dock at Belfast Crown Court yesterday, Anthony Notarantonio patted a distressed looking Francisco Notarantonio on the shoulders and spoke quietly to him.
The five then all stood and looked directly at the judge as they entered their pleas to the charges.
Around a dozen police officers stood guard in the public gallery, with a line of officers separating the friends and family of Mr Devlin from the friends and families of the five accused men.
As they were led from the dock the defendants began shouting “stitch up” and “political policing”.
Before they were handcuffed they also hurriedly passed a note to the Belfast Telegraph which made the same claims.