DPP won’t oppose Northern Ireland death sentence case appeal
The Director of Public Prosecutions will not be opposing an appeal against conviction by the last man sentenced to death in Northern Ireland.
Senior judges were told Barra McGrory took the decision after reviewing confidential evidence in the case of Liam Holden, who was found guilty of murdering a British soldier 40 years ago.
Despite the potential breakthrough in the bid to clear his name, Mr Holden's legal team may still press ahead with a challenge to the alleged use of water torture to force a confession from him.
Mr Holden, from Ballymurphy in west Belfast, was due to hang for the shooting of Private Frank Bell in September 1972.
His death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and he served 17 years in jail before applying to an independent body set up to examine alleged miscarriages of justice.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred his conviction back to the Court of Appeal on the basis that it may have been unsafe following an examination of secret new evidence and the admissibility and reliability of confessions.
In an unexpected development, senior counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutions confirmed yesterday that the challenge will not be resisted.
Gerald Simpson QC told the Court of Appeal that the decision was based on material with the CCRC's confidential annex which was not made available to the head of prosecutions at the time Mr Holden went on trial.
A further hearing will still be required to determine whether the murder conviction should be quashed.