Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Peace deal ‘means 1973 murder accused should not face trial’

A man charged with murdering a Catholic woman 38 years ago should not face trial because of a peace process deal, a court has heard.

Lawyers for Robert Rodgers have launched a legal bid to halt criminal proceedings against him for the killing of 19-year-old Eileen Doherty in Belfast.

A judge was told that senior Government officials indicated those accused of conflict-related offences would not be prosecuted without an admission of guilt.

Rodgers' legal team are now seeking notes from meetings between members of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the Northern Ireland Office in a bid to strengthen their case.

Ms Doherty was shot dead at Annadale Embankment after getting into a taxi in September 1973.

She was on her way home to the Andersonstown area when the vehicle was hijacked.

Rodgers (57), of Tierney Gardens, Belfast, was charged last year after the case was reopened by the PSNI's serious crime branch earlier this year. Making an abuse of process application at the city's Magistrates Court, his barrister claimed there was evidence to back claims that assurances were given to all sides during negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement.

Sean Devine said William ‘Plum' Smyth, a former chairman of the PUP, claimed loyalists, republicans, military and police were told they would not be prosecuted for that “type” of offence committed before the peace deal was signed.

Mr Devine pointed to the Bloody Sunday killings by British paratroopers in Derry and said a decision was reached not to prosecute any soldiers. “The activity my client is accused of also arose in or around the same time,” he told the court.

“If the material... that is sought bears out what we say, that the government have said you will not be prosecuted for this type of behaviour, the prosecution going back on a promise is a well-established abuse of process.”

Gary McCrudden, for the prosecution, argued that such applications should only be dealt with so early in proceedings, at Magistrates Court level, sparingly.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall reserved judgment on the application.

Background

Eileen Doherty called into a taxi depot on the Ormeau Road after visiting a friend. She agreed to share with two men who said they were going to Finaghy. After travelling along Annadale Embankment the men, who appeared drunk, produced a gun and made the driver stop. One of the men shot Eileen three times in the head and body. The taxi driver escaped and raised the alarm. Eileen died the next day in hospital.

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