Widow of slain RUC man petitions Stormont to end day release for terrorists
An RUC widow has said she was left humbled by the level of public support for her petition calling for an end to a day-release scheme for convicted terrorists.
The appeal was organised by June McMullan, whose husband - RUC reserve constable John Proctor - was murdered outside the Mid-Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt in 1981.
Some 32 years later, Seamus Kearney (58) was convicted and sentenced to at least 20 years in prison, but under the terms of the 1998 Agreement he will spend just two years behind bars.
Now the Justice Minister is being urged to prevent anyone convicted of a terrorist-related offence before the Good Friday Agreement getting day release.
The petition, signed by 3,300 people, was presented at the Assembly yesterday and will be sent on to the minister, Alliance leader David Ford.
Kearney was convicted of Mr Proctor's murder based on DNA evidence on a cigarette butt that was found among spent bullets at the scene.
Mrs McMullan, who has since remarried, organised the petition and was at Stormont yesterday supported by members of the Mid-Ulster Victims Empowerment Group who sat in the public gallery.
"I was humbled today by the level of support from the people who took time out to sign the petition," she said.
"Along with Innocent Victims United, we met Justice Minister David Ford and had a broad discussion about the petition.
"I also raised my concerns about the lack of communication from the authorities about the prison release scheme that I had signed up to that my family and I are not being kept informed about his release and his days out."
The petition was presented by Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend, who revealed the shooting happened after Mrs Proctor gave birth to her second son in the Mid-Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt in September 1981. "It was following a visit to see June and their newborn baby that her husband, RUC reserve constable John Proctor, was brutally murdered in the car park of the hospital," Ms Overend said.
"Tensions had been high at that time due to the hunger strikes and due to the IRA having carried out a number of murders in the south Londonderry and east Tyrone areas. In fact, earlier that day, John had attended the funeral of a UDR colleague.
"The murder took the hearts of John's family. Not only was a life lost, but a husband, brother, son and great friend was taken much too soon.
"It took 32 years, but, indeed, 32 years later, there was a conviction for the murder, and Seamus Kearney was sentenced to at least 20 years in prison. But under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, he was to spend two years in prison.
"The Belfast Agreement was by no means perfect, but neither was it an amnesty.
"When Seamus Kearney was sentenced to two years, there was a legitimate expectation that he would serve the full two years."
The Mid-Ulster MLA argued that day-release schemes were designed to help long-term prisoners reintegrate into society towards the end of a long sentence.
"Being subjected to media reports that Mr Kearney had applied for a series of day releases, including one for a St Patrick's Day GAA match, has been particularly painful for the family," she said.
"It certainly seems that a convicted murderer was being awarded days off his sentence as and when he chose for social events and such like."
Kearney is due to be freed in November.