Belfast Telegraph

Republican who killed police officer won't have legal challenge to temporary prison release decided in time for St Patrick's Day

Convicted killer Seamus Kearney wants release for St Patrick's Day and GAA match

By Alan Erwin

The republican killer of a police officer visiting his wife and newborn son will not have his legal challenge to temporary prison release arrangements decided in time for St Patrick's Day.

A High Court judge today 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 Derry, 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.

Kearney was convicted of the murder based on his DNA profile being found on a cigarette butt recovered from the scene.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement he is expected to be released from HMP Maghaberry in November after serving only two years of his sentence behind bars.

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.

Earlier this week barrister Michael Forde confirmed the republican was seeking the full 48-hour period in time for St Patrick's Day.

He regards the holiday as "an important cultural period" and wants to spend time with his close friends and family, according to counsel.

Mr Justice Treacy was also told Kearney hopes to be able to see local GAA club compete in an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final on that date.

A full hearing of the judicial review application was listed for today.

But the case was adjourned for a week following developments about the potential intervention of the victim's widow and the two-day release period granted to two loyalist prisoners in an "analogous position" to Kearney back in 2000.

The judge pointed out that only a request by a group identified as Justice for Innocent Victims of Terrorism for Mrs McMullin to be represented by an "advocacy officer" had been turned down.

He said it was in just the most exceptional circumstances that a right of audience is granted to a lay person.

Referring to a press report on the case, Mr Justice Treacy added: "Mrs McMullin has not been barred from any hearing."

Confirming any request for her to be legally represented in the case will be considered, he added: "It seems to me there are a number of issues she may well wish to address the court in respect of."

The judge also directed the Prison Service to provide full details on pre-release arrangements for the two loyalists and any other relevant cases.

It was also stressed in court that Kearney has an entitlement to temporary release this month.

Stephen McQuitty, for the Prison Service, said: "The decision to grant  this period of leave to the applicant in March had absolutely nothing to do with any sporting event or St Patrick's Day.

"St Patrick's Day just happened to be one of the days the applicant chose to exercise that right to in the circumstances."

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