Belfast Telegraph

We feel betrayed by PPS, says stab victim’s family

By Alan Erwin and Adrian Rutherford

The family of a west Belfast man stabbed during a brawl claim they feel betrayed by the justice system after a court criticised prosecutors for not consulting them before dropping murder charges.

A judge said the decision to accept guilty pleas to lesser offences from those accused of Gerard Devlin's killing should have been explained to relatives before it was announced in court.

Mr Devlin was stabbed outside his Ballymurphy home in front of his children and partner following a feud between families six years ago.

Five members of the Notarantonio family were initially charged with the murder.

However, the prosecution accepted guilty pleas from the five men to lesser charges as they were about to go on trial for murder.

Mr Devlin’s mother Mary later expressed her anger at how the prosecution was handled, adding that the family felt “betrayed” by the justice system.

“There should have been a trial for murder. We are deeply disappointed that the men who killed our son are now walking free,” she told the Belfast Telegraph.

The Devlin family's lawyer, Paul Pierce, said it sent a “clear message” to the PPS.

“We believe this is a very significant ruling from the court, which has found that the PPS acted unlawfully,” he said.

“It sends a clear message that the PPS must act in a way that respects the rights of victims and their families.”

Francisco Notarantonio (24), from Whitecliff Parade in Belfast, was jailed for 11 years after admitting manslaughter. Four other members of the Notarantonio family pleaded guilty to affray and received sentences ranging from a one-year suspended term to two years' imprisonment.

Lawyers for Mr Devlin's partner Aine McMahon, who brought judicial review proceedings, criticised the failure to consult with the family before lesser pleas were accepted from the suspects.

However, delivering judgment at the High Court on Monday, Mr Justice Treacy said he found it difficult to accept the pleas were unexpected.

It was acknowledged that an apology has been issued, although the judge pointed out that concerns of the family could have been allayed if the procedure had been properly followed.

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