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Man jailed for shooting his wife's former lover dead was denied fair trial, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Published 18/05/2015

Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.
Primary school teacher wins her appeal against being convicted of a classroom assault on an eight-year-old pupil.

A man jailed for shooting dead his wife's former lover was denied a fair trial by having no legal representation for most of the proceedings, a court heard today.

Louis Maguire claims he was left "overwhelmed" at having to defend himself in a complex and lengthy case.

Maguire, 49, is appealing his conviction for murdering David "Digger" Barnes in north Belfast back in March 2003.

The 39-year-old victim was shot as he lay in bed beside his girlfriend.

A gunman smashed his way into Mr Barnes' Brookvale Avenue flat before firing a shot at him.

Maguire, formerly of Whinpark Road in Newtownards, Co Down, was said to have carried out the killing while on weekend leave from serving a prison sentence for robbery.

In 2006 he received a 24-year sentence after being convicted of the murder and a separate arson attack on the home of a relative of Mr Barnes.

But he is now seeking to overturn the guilty verdicts by claiming the trial process was unfair.

The Court of Appeal was told he was unrepresented for 54 of the 75 days the hearing lasted.

Maguire alleged that his senior counsel had told him he was going to be convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Denying that he then sacked his legal team entirely of his own choice, he claimed an agreement was instead reached for his barrister to come out of the case.

Lord Justice Girvan, Mr Justice Stephens and Mr Justice Horner were told Maguire had been advised to represent himself.

He claimed a decision was taken not to appoint new lawyers because he believed he would be "strategically better off" on his own.

According to Maguire, he was told he could say things a lawyer couldn't, and could stop the trial at any time.

Giving evidence at today's appeal hearing, he insisted: "I'm not trained in the law."

Papers submitted as part of the challenge stressed how he was left to deal with much of the trial on his own.

"The effect of all of this was one that was overwhelming for the applicant," it was claimed.

Other grounds of challenge include the admission of bad character evidence, emphasis placed on it, and allegedly prejudicial press coverage.

The appeal continues.

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