GERRY McGEOUGH. NEGATA LA ROYAL PREROGATIVE OF MERCY
McGeough bid for pardon dismissed (UTV)
A former IRA man jailed for trying to kill a part-time soldier does not qualify for a special pardon, the Court of Appeal has ruled.
Senior judges on Tuesday dismissed Gerry McGeough’s bid to be granted a Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) because he has not served two years in a British or Irish prison.
McGeough, who is serving a 20-year sentence for the attempted murder of Samuel Brush in June 1981, claimed he has suffered inequality based on political considerations.
He was challenging a ruling that it was invalid to compare him with other high-profile terrorists who benefited from the scheme.
Mr Brush, now a Democratic Unionist councillor, was working as a postman when he was shot and seriously wounded near Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone in June 1981.
McGeough, 54, and from Dungannon, was jailed last year, but is likely to be released in early 2013 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
It requires prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes committed before 1998 peace deal to serve a minimum two years in jail before they are eligible for early release.
Despite that McGeough argued that he should not be denied a pardon due to geographical limitations.
The one-time IRA gunrunner claimed it was unlawful to treat him differently to others because he previously served jail terms in Germany and the United States.
His lawyers advanced a number of comparison cases involving others who received the RPM.
These included: James McArdle, the Armagh sniper responsible for the 1996 London Docklands bombing; the IRA men convicted for their part in the murder of SAS Captain Herbert Westmacott in Belfast in 1980; and six of those who broke out of the Maze Prison in 1983.
But Sir Anthony Hart, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Morgan and Mr Justice Gillen, held that McGeough was in a different category.
Rejecting the appeal, he said: “We accept that the circumstances of the decision to exercise the RPM in each of these cases were consistent and based upon the position that only those who had served a period of two years imprisonment within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland should be considered for the exercise of the RPM.
“These two countries were the only countries who were signatories to the Belfast Agreement, and it was entirely understandable for the respondent (the Secretary of State) to take the view that only those who had served two years imprisonment in either of those countries, or whose circumstances were very closely analogous thereto in the case of McArdle, should benefit from the exercise of the RPM to ensure that they be released after having served at least two years’ incarceration in either country.
“This cannot be said to be the position so far as Mr McGeough is concerned … and we can see no inequality or unfairness in the way his case was treated by the respondent.”
Sinn Féin representatives recently met McGeough in prison, and have called for his release, however he alleged that the party failed to lobby the British Government strongly enough on his behalf.
But Sir Anthony concluded: “There is no evidence before us to support Mr McGeough’s assertion that there is some form of deal between Sinn Fein and the Government to prevent the exercise of the RPM in Mr McGeough’s favour.”