Relief for victim's family as release of IRA killer stalled
The family of a young police officer murdered as he visited his wife and newborn son have told of their relief after his killer was prevented from spending St Patrick's Day at home.
A High Court judge yesterday put Seamus Kearney's judicial review application on hold for a week after it emerged that two loyalists serving life sentences were granted the initial 48-hour home leave denied to him.
Mr Justice Treacy also refuted a Press report that the RUC victim's widow has been barred from taking part in the hearing.
Stressing that only permission for a lay person to represent June McMullin was refused, the judge insisted she is entitled to instruct lawyers if she wants to intervene in the case.
He directed that all the papers are to be served on her, adding: "It seems to me she is a person who may well wish to participate."
Kearney wants the court to quash a Prison Service decision to impose an initial eight-hour limit on his periods outside jail.
The 58-year-old, of Gorteade Road in Maghera, Co Londonderry, was handed a minimum 20-year prison sentence in December 2013 for murdering Mrs McMullin's husband John Proctor in September 1981.
Mr Proctor, a 25-year-old RUC Reserve Constable, was shot dead by the IRA minutes after going to see his wife and child at the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt.
The officer's family last night welcomed the fact Kearney will not be released for St Patrick's Day. Speaking on their behalf, Kenny Donaldson of Innocent Victims United said: "It would have been an indictment of our criminal justice system for Seamus Kearney to have been released this weekend to enable him to go to a GAA match and join in the St Patrick's Day festivities.
"This issue goes to the heart of whose rights come first - the rights of innocent victims or the rights of convicted terrorists/criminals.
"The family are heartened that following the stand that they took this week that they will now have access to legal papers from the prison service legal team and also Seamus Kearney's barristers and will have the opportunity to be represented when the judicial case is recalled next Friday."
He added: "This week has once again proven that when victims and survivors speak, their voices soar."
Kearney was convicted of the murder based on his DNA profile being found on a cigarette butt recovered from the scene.
Under the Good Friday Agreement he is expected to be released from Maghaberry in November after serving only two years. His legal challenge centres on the programme of prior temporary home leaves being initially restricted to just eight hours.
Kearney's lawyers argue that other inmates are able to get out for two days on the scheme.
It was stressed in court that Kearney has an entitlement to temporary release this month.