Belfast Telegraph

UDA killer Stone fails in attempt to secure early jail release

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

By Alan Erwin

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

The Milltown Cemetery bomber had applied to the sentence review commissioners (SRC) 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 the 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.

Six years later, 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.

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

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.

She was left relieved, however, following news of the SRC's decision.

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