Shame of rough justice served out to RUC widow June McMullin
It is often said that you cannot know how a victim of any horror incident feels unless you walk in their shoes. Who would like to walk in the shoes of June McMullin, whose then husband, RUC Reservist John Proctor, was shot dead virtually in front of her eyes in September 1981?
He had left her just moments before after visiting her and their newborn son in the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt. She heard the fatal shots and saw his lifeless body being lifted into an ambulance, plunging her into grief at what should have been one of the happiest times in the couple's lives.
But her agony did not end there. Two years ago Seamus Kearney was convicted of Constable Proctor's murder and sentenced to 20 years in jail. However Mrs McMullin - she has since remarried - had to accept that he would only serve two years under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
That was poor enough justice for the widow, but imagine how she felt when she found out that he had been granted several periods of temporary home leave. She was supposed to have been informed of this by the Prison Service, but only learned of it when contacted by this newspaper.
Then one day, when she was out driving, she spotted Kearney on another home leave.
She had every right to feel let down and began a legal challenge to those temporary prison releases. Yesterday that challenge failed - partly because Kearney will be out of jail for good before any decision could be made by the courts, rendering the verdict only of academic interest. It is beyond question that the court observed the letter of the law in reaching its decision, but it was another blow for this woman. The Prison Service admitted there had been a breakdown in communications and apologised to her, but, somehow, that is symptomatic of how many victims of the Troubles are treated.
We have been unable to even come up with an acceptable definition of victim, never mind how they should be treated.
It sometimes seems that for all the talk about victims, they do not come top of anyone's list of priorities. It is only when a victim sticks their head above the parapet to complain about their treatment, or lack of it, that their ongoing plight again pricks the public consciousness.
There are many people like Mrs McMullin who feel they never really got justice for the foul deeds that continue to blight their lives.