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Double IRA murderer Martin Corey loses Supreme Court bid for prison release


Republicans hold a Release Martin Corey Campaign parade in Lurgan, January 2011

Republicans hold a Release Martin Corey Campaign parade in Lurgan, January 2011

Republicans hold a Release Martin Corey Campaign parade in Lurgan, January 2011

A convicted double murderer has lost a Supreme Court challenge as part of his three and a half year battle to get out of prison.

Martin Corey was seeking a determination on whether a High Court judge had jurisdiction to direct his release on bail.

But a panel of five Lord Justices sitting in London unanimously dismissed his appeal after holding there had not been power for such a move.

Corey, from Lurgan, County Armagh, received a life sentence in 1973 for the murders of two RUC men.

He was freed on licence in 1992, but in April 2010 former Secretary of State Shaun Woodward ordered his prison recall on the basis of closed material and unspecified allegations of involvement with dissident republicans.

He has been in prison ever since.

His case was then referred to parole commissioners who refused to direct his release based on the perceived risk he posed to the public.

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Among their reasons they stated that Corey had become involved in the Continuity IRA from early 2005 and was in a position of leadership from 2008 until his recall to prison.

In July last year he won a judicial review against the commissioners' decision to keep him behind bars.

A High Court judge held that their determination on whether it was safe to release him had breached his rights under European law.

He found that the open evidence did not advance the secretary of state's case against Corey, meaning that the decision was solely based on closed material.

He also said the commissioners misdirected themselves in law and failed to provide a sufficient safeguard against the lack of full disclosure.

The commissioners were directed to reconsider the case and Corey was granted unconditional bail.

But pending a full appeal against the judgment, lawyers for the secretary of state successfully applied for a stay on the bail order.

They argued that the High Court has no jurisdiction to grant bail in judicial review proceedings.

As part of a protracted legal battle Corey's layers then challenged that determination at the Supreme Court in London.

Their appeal specifically centred on whether the Northern Ireland High Court had authority to either grant bail or by ordering the parole commissioners to direct his release.

The lawfulness of his continued detention was not directly in issue.

Instead, the focus was on the commissioners' failure to direct his immediate release and how they reached their determination.

In a decision published today Lord Kerr concluded that the High Court has an inherent jurisdiction to grant bail, provided certain conditions are met.

Those conditions are that it is necessary for the effective disposal of Corey's claim and not contrary to the purpose or spirit of the legislation in question.

Giving reasons for rejecting the appeal, Lord Kerr said the judge's order that the review of the republican's detention was not conducted lawfully and should be reconsidered was, on its own terms, a full vindication of the right asserted.

But on that ground alone he did not have power to order Mr Corey's release, the Supreme Court held.

In any event, Lord Kerr added, an inherent jurisdiction to order release in the circumstances of this case would run directly counter to the operation of the legislation in question - the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001.

On that basis the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Corey's appeal.

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