A compensation payment of €15,000 to a former IRA prisoner over his prosecution for kidnapping has been branded a “disgrace” and flying in the face of justice.
Maze prison escapee Brendan ‘Bik’ McFarlane has been awarded €15,000 over his prosecution for the kidnap of supermarket boss Don Tidey.
McFarlane (59), of Jamaica Street, Belfast, was cleared in Dublin's Special Criminal Court in 2008 of false imprisonment and firearms possession in relation to the kidnap of supermarket boss Don Tidey, who was held hostage for 23 days in 1983.
He had already launched a challenge to the case in the European Court of Human Rights when he was acquitted in June 2006.
The court ruled in favour of the former IRA commander in the Maze and found the 10-and-a-half-year wait from his arrest in 1998 until he walked free was excessive.
The Irish government has now been ordered to pay McFarlane €5,400 in damages within three months, and €10,000 in legal costs.
But unionist politicians said yesterday’s judgment would appear to be favouring criminals over honest citizens.
Victims campaigner Willie Frazer said his group Fair would “try to make sure he never receives any of it”.
Branding it a “disgrace”, he said the ruling “shows how mad the European Court of Human Rights has gotten”.
“These people have more benefits from the law than the people who are actually supposed to be protected by it,” he said.
“I find that unbelievable.”
TUV leader Jim Allister shared this view, and said the ruling sends out the message that “once again the law is on the side of the law-breaker not the law-keeper”.
The senior barrister said the decision offered a “system of reward for those who are in the business of law-breaking”, and McFarlane had “thumbed his nose at due process and then claimed money at the same time”.
Describing the ruling as “crazy”, Ulster Unionist Fred Cobain said: “It’s horrendous that someone with a record like McFarlane — a prominent member of a sophisticated murdering organisation — can get compensation.
“All this does is fly in the face of what people know to be human rights.”
He said such decisions “suck the confidence” out of the legal process and leave ordinary people at a loss to see how judges come to “these sort of conclusions”.
“All of this just beggars belief,” he said. Describing it as “an insult to ordinary individuals”, he said: “There’s no justice in that.”
McFarlane was one of 38 IRA prisoners who escaped from the Maze in 1983. He was later caught in Amsterdam and extradited to Northern Ireland. He was arrested by Garda in 1998 and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm and false imprisonment. His trial collapsed after gardai lost items which it claimed had his fingerprints on them. At the re-trial in 2008 Garda evidence was ruled inadmissible.
In the judgment, the ECHR said McFarlane had to report to Dublin's non-jury Special Criminal Court 40 times over a 10-year period, a round trip of 320km from his Belfast home.