Belfast Telegraph

Republican who killed police officer wants release for St Patrick's Day and GAA match

Convicted killer Seamus Kearney has won legal right to challenge temporary release arrangements

By Alan Erwin

A veteran republican jailed for murdering a part-time police officer visiting his wife and newborn son has won the legal right to challenge his temporary release arrangements.

Convicted killer Seamus Kearney issued High Court proceedings after failing to secure home leave to spend a St Valentine's weekend with his own partner.

He wants a judge to quash a Prison Service decision to impose an initial eight-hour limit on his periods outside jail.

The Derry man's lawyers revealed today that he wants a 48-hour release next week to celebrate St Patrick's Day and to see the GAA club he supports take part in the All-Ireland final.

Granting leave to seek a judicial review, Mr Justice Treacy fixed the case for a full hearing on Friday.

Kearney, 58, of Gorteade Road in Maghera, was handed a minimum 20 years prison sentence in December 2013 for murdering John Proctor back in September 1981.

The victim, 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.

Kearney had denied murder and possessing an Armalite AR15 rifle.

However, a judge found him guilty after hearing key evidence that his DNA profile was on a cigarette butt found among spent bullet casings at the scene.

He was held to be either the gunman, the driver of a Ford Escort RS200 used by the killers, or an occupant of the car present to provide support.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement Kearney is expected to serve just two years of his sentence behind bars.

With his release from HMP Maghaberry due to take place in November, efforts were made to sort out a programme of prior temporary home leaves.

Barrister Michael Forde claimed prison authorities unlawfully decided to initially restrict these periods to just eight hours.

Other inmates are able to get out for two days on the scheme, it was contended.

Mr Forde told how Kearney first wanted released over a weekend last month.

"That was for 48 hours over Valentine's Day to spend time with his wife," he said.

The legal action is now centred on securing the convicted murderer the same amount of home leave in time for St Patrick's Day.

According to his barrister that represents an important cultural period for Kearney.

Mr Forde also described his client as a life-long supporter of Slaughtneil GAA Club, who are due to compete in an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final on that date.

"The applicant says this is a significant and momentous occasion that he would want to see and spend time with his close friends and family," he told the court.

Following submissions Mr Justice Treacy decided the case has enough merit to progress to a full hearing on Friday.

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