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Garfield Beattie: Victim's daughter to lead challenge over decision not to revoke early release licence


Garfield Beattie. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Garfield Beattie. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Garfield Beattie. (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

A woman who received a menacing letter from her father’s sectarian killer is to be the lead case in challenges to a decision not to revoke his early release licence, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Colton held that Denise Mullen is more closely linked to the circumstances which led to calls for Garfield Beattie to be put back behind bars.

But he stressed that the son of another man murdered by Beattie will remain closely involved in the proceedings.

Ms Mullen and John McNeice are both seeking to judicially review the Department of Justice for failing to refer the 65-year-old loyalist to the Parole Commissioners.

Beattie, of Moss Road in Portadown, served 16 years behind bars on a life sentence for his part in three killings carried out by the so-called Glenanne gang, a notorious loyalist unit which operated at the height of the Troubles.

His victims included Denis Mullen, gunned down at his home near Moy, Co Tyrone in 1975, and Patrick McNeice, who was shot dead outside his Co Armagh home a year later.

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In December last year he was handed a further 17-month term after being found guilty of attempting to intimidate Mr Mullen’s daughter Denise.

He had sent her a letter signed by the East Tyrone Ulster Volunteer Force.

Following that development Ms Mullen and Patrick McNeice’s son, John, both pressed for Beattie’s life sentence licence to be revoked.

But earlier this year the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Panel (MARAP) decided against ordering his recall.

The threshold for initiating his revocation was deemed not to have been met.

Lawyers for the two bereaved relatives claim the Department acted unlawfully and unreasonably by failing to refer Beattie’s case to the Parole Commissioners for an assessment of the risk he poses to the public.

They are each seeking an order quashing the determination reached by MARAP.

Last month Mr Justice Colton granted permission for both to seek a judicial review, but indicated only one would be chosen to advance full arguments.

In a further ruling today, he made clear: “The court is reluctant to suggest that there is any hierarchy of victims in respect of Garfield Beattie’s actions.”

The judge decided, however, that Ms Mullen is more directly associated with the situation relating to the challenges.

“The whole issue of Garfield Beattie’s licence arose because of a specific threat made to her which resulted in his prosecution, conviction and sentencing,” he pointed out.

It is this conduct which has given rise to the issue of the potential revocation of his licence.

“The court therefore rules that the case of Denise Mullan shall proceed as the lead case in the substantive judicial review.”

It was also emphasised that Mr McNeice is to be made a notice party in the ongoing challenge.

Mr Justice Colton added: “It is clear that (he) has a direct interest in the outcome of these proceedings.”

Welcoming the decision, Ms Mullen’s solicitor, Gavin Booth, said: “We believe that this case is important for all the Glenanne victims.”

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