Belfast Telegraph

Garda killer loses bid for remission

Callan must serve full 40-year sentence after '85 murder of sergeant

By Tim Healy and Louise Hogan

A man serving a 40-year sentence for the 1985 murder of an unarmed garda sergeant yesterday lost a High Court bid to be considered for remission.

Noel Callan was 22 when convicted by the Special Criminal Court in December 1985 of the murder of Sergeant Patrick Morrissey (49) on June 27, 1985, following an armed robbery the same day at Ardee Labour Exchange in Louth.

Callan's accomplice, Michael McHugh, of Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, shot the unarmed sergeant in the head as he lay wounded after giving chase to the men.

Both men had their death sentences commuted to 40 years' imprisonment by then- President Patrick Hillery.

Sgt Morrissey's widow, Bernadette Morrissey, was present in the Irish High Court yesterday.

Mr Justice Michael Hanna rejected Callan's application to be released but said Callan had "flourished artistically and intellectually" while in prison and, after this length of time, could advance "substantial arguments his circumstances should be looked at afresh".

The judge said some might feel Callan had already received "his full quotient of mercy" given the "appaling nature of this crime inflicted on a courageous servant of the State".

"These matters and their potential resolution (if any there be) lie outside the walls of these courts," he added.

Previously, in a 'Garda ar Lar' documentary series for RTE, Mrs Morrissey said her husband was "so loved by everybody" and used his own car to go visit people in their homes in Collon, Co Louth, in the winter to ensure they felt safe.

His colleagues described the man who had saved a drowning teenager from a river as courageous and diligent.

"For family and children to lose their father in such a violent way, it is beyond anything we are ever prepared for as it is not normal. Nobody has the right to take a father or a parent from a family," said Mrs Morrissey in the 2009 documentary.

Callan (47), of Cullaville, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, had claimed he has unlawfully been deprived of a right of remission, which could reduce his 40-year term by a third.

Other persons convicted of the murder of gardai after passage of the Criminal Justice Act 1990 can seek remission, the court heard.

Mr Justice Hanna rejected claims by Callan he had been treated unequally before the law in relation to remission.

The commutation of sentence constituted an exercise in clemency by the President and did not attract the protection of constitutional justice, he ruled.

Belfast Telegraph


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