Legal challenge by Swatragh man convicted of IRA murder of RUC man halted

Seamus Martin Kearney
Seamus Martin Kearney

A legal challenge to temporary prison release arrangements mounted by a veteran republican convicted of murdering a police officer is to be halted, a High Court judge ruled today.

Mr Justice Treacy agreed to set aside the granting of leave for Seamus Kearney to seek a judicial review after lawyers for the Prison Service argued the case is now academic.

Kearney, 58, is due to be freed in November after serving two years behind bars for killing part-time RUC man John Proctor in September 1981.

The judge said: “I don’t consider there’s any public interest which would justify this case going any further.”

Constable Proctor, 25, was shot dead by the IRA minutes after he visited his wife and newborn son at the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt.

Kearney, of Gorteade Road in Maghera, was handed a minimum 20 years prison sentence in December 2013 after being convicted of the murder based on DNA evidence on a cigarette butt found among spent bullet casing at the scene.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement he will spend only a tenth of that period in jail.

He wanted the court to quash a Prison Service decision to impose an initial eight-hour limit on periods of temporary home leave leading up to his eventual release.

When the republican launched his legal challenge earlier this year he was seeking to get out for two days on the scheme in time for St Patrick’s Day.

Kearney hoped to spend time with friends and family, and to watch his local GAA club compete in an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship final, the court heard.

Since then, however, he has been allowed the full 48-hour home leave periods.

Counsel for the Prison Service contended today that there is no longer any need to continue the case.

Any complaint Kearney still has over being initially granted a shorter period of temporary release can be taken up with the Prisoner Ombudsman, it was submitted.

Backing that argument, Mr Justice Treacy pointed out: “The fact remains that he now is getting 48-hour leave and will do so until his eventual release in November.”

The judge confirmed: “I accede to the application to set aside the granting of leave.”