3,000 sign up to end terrorists' day release
Thousands of people have signed an online petition to call on Justice Minister David Ford to stop terrorists convicted after the Good Friday Agreement getting day release during their two years in prison.
The Charge.org petition from the Mid-Ulster Victims Empowerment - signed by more than 3,000 people - was sparked by the outrage of the widow of a murdered police reservist who has been told that her husband's killer has been freed from prison at least three times.
The widow of Co Londonderry man John Proctor has accused the Department of Justice and the Prison Service of "rubbing salt in her wounds".
She heard the shots as IRA gunmen killed her husband in a car park 34 years ago, as she lay in a maternity ward after giving birth to their second son.
Now remarried, June McMullan has also launched a legal bid, with the case due to be heard next month, to ensure that convicted terrorists serve every day of their sentence - and to change the policy on day release.
Mrs McMullan has felt agonised knowing that Seamus Kearney, the man who shot her husband, has been out enjoying himself on at least three occasion since he was convicted in December, 2013.
Kearney (58), of Gorteade Road, Maghera, was handed a minimum 20-year jail sentence for murdering Mr Proctor in September 1981.
However, as the conviction came after the Good Friday Agreement, Kearney was only to serve two years and is now looking towards his release in November.
While Mrs McMullan has applied to the High Court to ensure that Kearney stays inside, Kearney and his legal counsel have applied to the High Court to fight for 48-hour prison leave on St Patrick's Day to attend a parade and a GAA match.
Last night Mrs McMullan said: "When Kearney got two years, we thought that's it, he's inside now for two years.
"But within 10 months he applied to get out on this early release scheme, but we don't think that's right as he is not classified as a lifer. He should be doing his two full years.
"The fact he's looking out is rubbing salt in the wounds. We have waited 31 years for justice and it seems to be being taken away from us."
The 56-year-old from Upperlands, Co Derry, was told that on one of the occasions that Kearney was out, he came back smelling of drink, which broke the conditions of his release. She claims that he refused to take a Breathalyser test and his day release was cancelled for three months.
Ulster Unionist MLA Sandra Overend is urging people to sign the petition to the Department of Justice to end the provision of such benefits.
She said: "Kearney evaded justice for 30 years, and is now making a mockery of the justice system again."
Mrs McMullan and her family are supported by Innocent Victims United and The MUVE Project, Victims Cookstown, which are spearheading the petition initiative.
Spokesman Kenny Donaldson said: "What Seamus Kearney and many other convicted terrorists, and indeed those who have to date escaped justice, refuse to accept is that because of their actions families have been left broken and are forced to serve life sentences without cherished loved ones.
"There is no early release, there is no parole for that pain and hurt - its impacts are unyielding."
Mr Proctor was shot in the car park of the Mid-Ulster Hospital, Magherafelt. He had been visiting June after the birth of their second son, Johnny.
The 25-year-old Protestant had served that day as a pallbearer at the funeral of his friend and neighbour Alan Clarke, a UDR member who was also shot by the IRA two days earlier.
A Department of Justice Spokesperson said: ” As this issue is subject to a Judicial Review, the Department cannot comment.”
- The petition can be found at www.change.org/p/david-forde-justice-minister-northern-ireland-stop-terrorists-convicted-under-the-gfa-getting-day-release-during-their-2-years-in-prison."