Belfast Telegraph

RUC widow 'unlawfully kept in dark' over killer's prison leave

By Alan Erwin

The widow of a murdered police officer was unlawfully kept in the dark about his killer's periods of temporary release from jail, the High Court heard.

Lawyers for June McMullin branded a scheme set up to keep victims informed a "shambles".

Mrs McMullin has launched legal action over failures to notify and consult with her before Seamus Kearney was allowed out of prison for periods of up to 48 hours.

Veteran republican Kearney (58) is serving a life sentence for murdering her husband John Proctor in September 1981.

The 25-year-old RUC Reserve Constable was shot dead by the IRA minutes after visiting his wife and their newborn son at the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt.

In December 2013 Kearney was handed a minimum 20-year sentence for the killing. But under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement he will spend only two years behind bars and is due to get out of jail later this month.

Earlier this year he issued proceedings when his temporary home leave periods were initially limited to eight hours.

He wanted out for the full 48-hours in time for St Patrick's Day, and to watch his local GAA club compete in an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final.

Mrs McMullin, who has since remarried, only learned of Kearney's trips when contacted by the Press about that case. She is now seeking to judicially review the Northern Ireland Prison Service, claiming the failure to inform her breached human rights law and the Prisoner Release Victims Information Scheme. The home leave arrangements should be quashed, her barrister claimed.

The court heard Kearney enjoyed periods out of jail in March before the privilege was suspended for three months.

Temporary releases recommenced in September, and he is due another 48 hours before his release in three weeks' time.

It was revealed how, on one occasion last month, Mrs McMullin spotted Kearney while she was out driving.

"The scheme is a bit of a shambles at the minute," Fiona Doherty QC said. "Victims should be in a position to steel themselves for this - that's one of the difficulties with the lack of transparency."

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Prison Service, accepted a "breakdown in communication" resulted in failures to notify Mrs McMullin.

He confirmed there had been "sincere apologies to the applicant for that omission and for the distress and upset it may have caused".

However, he argued that the legal action should be dismissed due to delays and because the case is now academic as Kearney will be released before any judicial decision can be reached.

With no other life sentence prisoners currently eligible for such temporary releases, the barrister insisted any wider legal exploration was unnecessary.

Following submissions, Mr Justice Maguire reserved his verdict on whether to grant leave to seek a judicial review.

Belfast Telegraph

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