Belfast Telegraph

Loyalist killer Michael Stone's release bid refused

Michael Stone
Michael Stone

By Alan Erwin

Jailed loyalist killer Michael Stone's bid to be freed early for a second time has been refused, a relative of one of his victims has confirmed.

The Milltown Cemetery bomber had applied to the Sentence Review Commissioners to be released again under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

On Wednesday, a High Court judge held that the body does have legal power to consider the 64-year-old former paramilitary's case.

But following that ruling Deborah McGuinness was informed that Stone's application had been denied.

Ms McGuinness revealed that she received confirmation from a victims information unit within the Department of Justice.

She said: "We're delighted as a family, and he families of all the others he killed will probably be just as happy."

Her brother, Thomas McErlean, was among three mourners killed in the attack on an IRA funeral at the west Belfast graveyard in March 1988.

Stone was also the gunman in three other killings.

He is currently serving a 30-year term for his sectarian murder campaign.

In 2000 the ex-UDA man had been freed early as part of the Good Friday Agreement arrangements.

Six years later, however, he was sent back to jail after trying to enter Parliament Buildings at Stormont, armed with explosives, knives and an axe, in an attempt to murder Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

He denied it had been a bid to kill the politicians, instead claiming it was an act of performance art.

Stone has been pursuing two separate legal routes aimed at achieving another release from prison.

In October the Supreme Court in London will hear his attempt to overturn a verdict that he must now remain in jail until 2024.

But he also went before an SRC panel last month to appeal their preliminary indication that his bid to be freed early for a second time should be refused.

Ms McGuinness mounted a legal challenge to their jurisdiction to consider Stone's application.

The judge, Lord Justice McCloskey held the Commissioners were legally competent after  identifying no prohibition in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998.

That verdict represented a blow in Ms McGuinness's fight to ensure Stone remains behind bars.

She was left relieved, however, following news of the SRC's decision, also confirmed by other sources.

Ms McGuinness insisted: "Personally I think he's a serial killer.

"To get out the first time and then do what he did the second time, I wouldn't feel safe."

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