A Co Armagh woman who provided a false alibi for a murder suspect linked to the fatal shooting of a prison officer evaded a jail term after appearing in court on Monday.
Fiona McFadden was handed a suspended prison sentence for perverting the course of justice after she admitted lying about the movements of her ex-partner Sean McVeigh.
McFadden, a 30-year old mother of one from Killough Gardens in Lurgan, told officers investigating the murder of Mr Black that Sean McVeigh had been trick or treating her and their daughter between the hours of 4pm and 9.30pm on October 31, 2012.
Mr Black - the first prison officer to be murdered in Northern Ireland in 20 years - was shot dead as he drove to work at HMP Maghaberry on the morning of November 1, 2012.
As the 52-year old father of two was driving along the M1 between Portadown and Lurgan at around 7.30am, a gunman opened fire from a Toyota that pulled up alongside his vehicle.
Sean Mcveigh was arrested and spent time in custody in relation to the murder - but all the charges levelled against him were dropped by the PPS last July.
Outlining the Crown case against McFadden, senior prosecuting barrister Terence Mooney QC said that at an “early stage” in the murder investigation, police called to her home on November 3.
McFadden then made a false oral statement to police regarding the movements of Sean McVeigh between 4pm on 9.30pm the day before Mr Black was murdered.
Telling Belfast Crown Court that McFadden making the false statement was not motivated by “anything other than loyalty”, Mr Mooney said: “There is no evidence to suggest she has connections to or has sympathies with the terrorist organisation that carried out this murder.”
Mr Mooney also revealed that in November 2012, McFadden was no longer in a relationship with Mr McVeigh, but he was the father of her child.
Regarding the false information she gave to police, Mr Mooney said this did not impact or influence the outcome of the investigation. He did, however, speak of the police time that was taken up “arresting and interviewing” McFadden.
She initially denied the charge, but after she was re-arraigned earlier today on a single charge of doing an act intending to pervert the course of justice, McFadden entered a guilty plea.
Defence barrister Patrick Lyttle QC said that apart from this one incident, McFadden was an otherwise “entirely law-abiding young woman” who appeared before the court with a completely clear criminal record.
Mr Lyttle said that McFadden’s involvement “arose more out of naivety rather than anything else”, and said: “This is a young woman who will not be back before the court again.”
The senior barrister also spoke of the three year period between the murder and today’s court hearing, which he said had been hanging over and which has had a “substantial effect” on her.
Handing McFadden an 18-month prison sentence, which was suspended for three years, Judge David McFarland told the Lurgan woman he accepted she gave a false oral account to police as a “misguided act of loyalty to the father of your child.”
The Judge added that her actions had “very little impact” on the murder investigation, and that her guilty plea reflected “an element of remorse”.