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Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive

Northern Irish men set to receive compensation for wrongful IRA convictions

The UK’s Supreme Court says two men wrongfully convicted of murder and IRA membership should be entitled to compensation.

TWO NORTHERN IRISHMEN who were wrongfully convicted of murder and membership of the IRA in the 1970s have been told by the UK’s Supreme Court that they should be entitled to compensation.

Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney and journalist Eamonn MacDermott were both given life imprisonment for the murder of Jeffrey Agate, and for membership of the IRA.

The pair’s convictions were later cleared on appeal, when judges cast doubt over the safety of the previous verdicts, but the two Derry men had failed in previous bids to win compensation for their imprisonment.

Today, though, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the test for payments to people who have been wrongfully convicted should be refined – with the court’s president Lord Phillips saying an innocent defendant should not be barred from seeking compensation just because they cannot prove their innocence “beyond reasonable doubt”.

BBC News explains that the ruling means people are entitled to compensation if new facts undermine their previous convictions, to the point where “no conviction could possibly be based on the evidence”.

The two men will therefore now be allowed to pursue fresh claims for compensation in light of their wrongful convictions.

A third man involved in the case, Andrew Adams from Newcastle-upon-Tyne who spent 14 years in jail after being wrongfully convicted of murdering a teacher, failed in his bid because his case did not fall within this definition.

McCartney – who spent 53 days on hunger strike in the Maze during his imprisonment – said he felt “totally vindicated” and said the verdict was a “damning indictment” of both the RUC and the former Public Prosecution Service.

Others who may now win compensation as a result of today’s landmark judgment are Barry George, whose conviction for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando was quashed, but whose bid for compensation was denied.

Among the legal team for McCartney was RTÉ gaelic football pundit Joe Brolly, a qualified barrister.