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Schoolboy Thomas Devlin's killer to use landmark ruling in fresh bid for appeal

By Alan Erwin

Published 07/05/2016

Nigel Brown
Nigel Brown

One of the men jailed for the murder of a north Belfast schoolboy is set to use a landmark legal ruling in a new bid to have his conviction quashed.

Nigel Brown is serving a minimum 20-year prison sentence for the fatal knife attack on Thomas Devlin in August 2005.

But his lawyers are now seeking exceptional leave to mount a fresh appeal based on a finding on the interpretation of joint enterprise.

In February the Supreme Court held that the law which allowed people to be convicted of murder even if they did not inflict the fatal blow has been wrongly applied for more than 30 years. Senior judges in Belfast yesterday listed Brown's case for a hearing next month on the legal issues raised by the ruling.

They may also issue guidance on how other joint enterprise cases should be handled.

Fifteen-year-old Thomas was knifed to death close to his home in the city.

He suffered multiple stab wounds to the chest, abdomen, right upper arm, hip and face.

His friend, Jonathan McKee, was also attacked and stabbed in the stomach.

The killers struck on the Somerton Road as the young victims were walking back from a shop with a third teenager, Fintan Maguire.

Brown (32), formerly of Whitewell Road, and 29-year-old Gary Taylor, from Mountcollyer Avenue - both in Belfast - were jointly convicted of murder and attempted murder.

A previous court was told the murder had been random and motiveless.

Both men have already had appeals against their convictions dismissed in 2012.

However, Brown's legal team are now relying on the Supreme Court judgment reached in the case of Ameen Jogee for the joint enterprise murder of former Leicestershire policeman Paul Fyfe in 2011.

That ruling, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland, could pave the way for hundreds of appeals.

Submissions on behalf of Brown will be made at the Court of Appeal during a hearing expected to last for a full day.

His solicitor, Gerard McNamara of KRW Law, said: "The law pertaining to joint enterprise has fundamentally changed as a result of the ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Jogee.

"The case of Nigel Brown will hopefully allow our Court of Appeal to issue guidance in our jurisdiction on this fundamental area of the law."

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