Belfast Telegraph

Pensioner killer wins challenge over allegedly sneaking out of hostel on pre-release scheme

A pensioner killer has won a High Court challenge to being punished for allegedly sneaking out of his hostel on a pre-release scheme.

A judge quashed the adjudication against Gordon Beattie because the hearing went ahead before prison chiefs replied to his lawyers' bid to access CCTV footage of the incident.

Mr Justice Treacy said: "There is simply no explanation for the failure to comply with the quite reasonable request made by the applicant's solicitors."

Beattie, a 40-year-old from Belfast, was jailed for life for murdering and robbing John Conn in 1993.

He pleaded guilty to going into the 74-year-old victim's Portadown home and carrying out a frenzied attack involving two knives.

The pensioner was said to have been beaten beyond recognition. Beattie also stole £175 from his victim.

He was given a minimum 15-year term and released on licence in 2010, only to be recalled less than a year later.

He was found to have breached residency requirements at Thompson House hostel in Belfast, misused alcohol and shown aggression towards his partner. 

Beattie was assessed by the Probation Board as being a risk of causing serious harm.

A forensic psychologist concluded that the chances of future violent behaviour was in the moderate to high range, but that this was specific to his partner. 

In April this year he was again freed on a pre-release scheme to stay at Thompson House under night-time curfew.

A member of staff said he breached the condition in June by climbing out of a window shortly after midnight and returning six hours later.

Prison chiefs held an adjudication hearing the following month which resulted in a loss of association being imposed on Beattie.

The convicted killer launched judicial review proceedings, claiming he was unfairly denied sufficient time to prepare his defence. 

It emerged that his solicitor wrote to the governor before the hearing, requesting a copy of the CCTV footage.

But a reply only came after the adjudication took place.

Mr Justice Treacy acknowledged that complying with the solicitor's requests may not have made any difference to the outcome.

He held, however, that Beattie is entitled to a fair process and a full opportunity to put forward his case.

Granting the judicial review, the judge confirmed: "On that ground, in my view, the adjudication must be quashed."

His decision means that unless a new hearing takes place the issue cannot be raised at any future parole assessment.

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