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Shameless monster with bee in his bonnet

By Deborah McAleese

Published 19/02/2016

He served 14 years in prison for the murder of a pensioner. And less than a year after his release in 1996, Christopher Doherty was back behind bars after raping a nine-year-old girl and sexually abusing a teenager.

Over the next 20 years - 11 of them spent in prison - the killer launched 16 challenges against the lawfulness of his detention.

When his licence was revoked in 1997 it became the responsibility of the Life Sentence Review Board (LRB) to determine when Doherty should be freed.

The board reviewed his case in November 1998, November 1999, December 1999, April 2000 and October 2000. Each time his release was declined over fears he would commit further offences.

Frustrated by his continuing incarceration, Doherty secured legal aid and sought leave to apply for judicial review. Permission was granted but the High Court dismissed the bid in 2001.

Undeterred, Doherty had his case referred the Life Sentence Review Commissioners (LSRC), which had replaced the LRB. An initial hearing took place in June 2002, during which Doherty dismissed his solicitor, meaning the case had to be adjourned until a new legal team was instructed.

Several adjournments later, the case began in March 2005, but the panel concluded it was not safe to release him. Later that year he again sought permission to seek a judicial review, but the bid was dismissed.

In July 2006 Doherty turned to the High Court. The appeal was heard in April 2007, with judges quashing the LSRC's decision and ordering a fresh panel to oversee a second hearing.

The case ended up before the House of Lords after the LSRC appealed against the court's decision. The chamber ruled in favour of the LSRC.

Another review of detention was held by the LSRC in October 2008. After considering updated evidence, Doherty was finally released from prison.

The killer had also lodged a legal challenge in the Court of Appeal against a previous High Court refusal to grant permission to apply for judicial review. Again, the bid was refused.

In 2009 he went back to court to seek an injunction to prevent the Belfast Telegraph from publishing his unpixelated photograph and personal details. The application was successful.

Despite being free, Doherty was intent on suing over his detention. Action in the High Court failed in 2011, so he turned to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming delays to review his imprisonment were a breach of his human rights.

Yesterday the court ruled that his rights had been violated because the reviews into his imprisonment had not been completed in a timely fashion.

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