Prison service apologises to police widow over failure to reveal her husband's killer had been freed
The Northern Ireland Prison Service has apologised to the widow of a murdered police officer for failing to inform her that his killer had been released from jail, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
June McMullin was not officially notified of the release of the man who killed her husband John Proctor.
Seamus Kearney was handed a minimum 20-year prison sentence in December 2013 for the killing of Mr Proctor, who was shot dead minutes after visiting his newborn son in hospital.
But under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement he was released last month after just two years behind bars.
It has since emerged that despite a request from Mrs McMullin for information about Kearney's release date, the authorities failed to tell her.
She had registered to receive information about Kearney with the Prisoner Release Victim Information Scheme (PRVIS) in February 2014.
The Justice Minister has admitted to the Assembly that Mrs McMullin had been kept in the dark due to "an oversight".
"Following Mr Kearney's successful application to the Sentence Review Commissioners, a letter was sent from the NIO advising that Mr Kearney would now be released on November 27, 2015," David Ford said in response to an Assembly question.
He added: "Unfortunately the Prisoner Development Unit (PDU) at Maghaberry did not seek to engage with Mrs McMullin in advance of Mr Kearney's first period of home leave.
"Mrs McMullin was contacted by PRVIS as soon as it was made aware of this oversight. In addition, I understand the Governor of the PDU wrote to Mrs McMullin to apologise for the oversight."
TUV leader Jim Allister has demanded an apology from the Justice Minister.
"The conviction of Seamus Kearney for the brutal murder of RUC Reserve Constable John Proctor in a hospital car park, just after he visited his newborn son, was welcomed by all who truly have any interest in justice and the needs of innocent victims.
"Sadly, due to the perversion of justice in Northern Ireland, Kearney served just two years of his life sentence," said Mr Allister.
He added: "However, the failure of justice did not end there as Constable Proctor's widow was never advised of Kearney's release as she should have been.
"The circumstances of this case are particularly worrying because Kearney is living in close proximity to Mrs McMullin.
"The prison service needs to put in place measures to prevent any repeat of this situation.
"Furthermore, I believe that it is incumbent on Minister Ford, as the person ultimately responsible for the justice system in Northern Ireland, to apologise in person to Mrs McMullin."
The authorities also failed to inform Mrs McMullin that Kearney had been granted temporary home leave prior to his full release. From March this year, Kearney had been allowed out of jail for periods of up to 48 hours as part of a pre-release scheme.
On one occasion, Mrs McMullin even spotted Kearney while she was out driving.
Mr Proctor was just 25 when he was murdered in the grounds of Magherafelt hospital in County Londonderry after visiting his newborn son in September 1981.
Kearney (59), of Gorteade Road, Maghera, was arrested and charged in connection with the murder after a review by the Historical Enquiries Team.
Upon conviction, Crown Court judge David McFarland described Mr Proctor's murder as "one of the most appalling" committed during the Troubles.
"That a man can be targeted when he is attending a hospital to visit his wife and newly-born son continues to appal all right-minded members of society," the judge added.