Belfast Telegraph

Michael Stone parole challenged by sister of Milltown Cemetery victim

By Alan Erwin

The sister of one of notorious loyalist killer Michael Stone's victims has won High Court permission to challenge his eligibility to seek parole.

Deborah McGuinness was granted leave to apply for a judicial review of Department of Justice calculations of his time served in prison.

Her brother, Thomas McErlean, was among three mourners murdered by Stone in an infamous gun and grenade attack on an IRA funeral in Milltown Cemetery, west Belfast in March 1988.

The ex-UDA man was also the gunman in another three separate killings.

 Milkman Patrick Brady was murdered in south Belfast in November 1984, 12 months before joiner Kevin McPolin was shot in the head in Lisburn, Co Antrim.

In May 1987 Dermott Hackett, a bread server, was found dead in his van between Drumquin and Omagh. He had been shot up to 16 times with a submachine gun.

Stone, 63, was freed under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 2000, but returned to jail six years later for trying to kill Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness at Stormont.

In 2013 he was told that he must serve the remainder of a 30-year sentence for waging his sectarian murder campaign.

It was believed this meant he may not even be considered for release until this year.

With a parole hearing described as "imminent", Ms McGuinness launched her legal challenge.

Mr Justice McCloskey identified her central challenge as being the Department's calculation that Stone had served the 30-year tariff by July 2018.

"The sole question for this court is whether this calculation is vitiated by illegality," he said.

In an order drawn up following the hearing, the judge confirmed: "The court being satisfied that an arguable case with a reasonable prospect of success has been established, leave to apply for judicial review is hereby granted."

Both Stone and the Parole Commissioners have the status of interest parties in the case.

"The fact of an imminent parole hearing is noted," Mr Justice McCloskey added.

On that basis he agreed to fast-track the challenge to a full hearing in early January.

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