A REPUBLICAN prisoner who was told he must remain in jail till he dies, has won the first legal battle to have the decision reversed.
Paul Kavanagh, from west Belfast’s Springfield Road and his co-accused, Thomas Quigley, from Glenalina in Ballymurphy, were convicted in March 1985 for the murder of three people in England. The judge recommended that they serve at least 35 years. The men received a bitter blow at the start of the month when British home secretary Michael Howard said “In their case, life must mean life” – they must stay in prison until they die. After repeated applications to be moved to a jail near their families, the men were shifted in July 1994 to Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn where they are on temporary transfer status. They must apply every six months to have the transfer status renewed. A breach of prison discipline can result in temporary transfer prisoners being sent back to England. But because temporary transfer prisoners remain under the control of the British home office, they do not enjoy the privileges of the more enlightened regime which has evolved in the north’s jails in recent years. Mr Howard fears that if the prisoners are granted permanent status and placed under the control of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, they could be released earlier than they would be from English jails. Mr Kavanagh, who is married to fellow republican prisoner Martina Anderson, also on temporary transfer, applied on Thursday for a justice review of the home secretary’s ruling that he must never be freed. Last night his lawyer, Angela Ritchie of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, confirmed that her client had been granted leave to challenge Michael Howard’s ruling. The home office must now reply to the case and explain why such a large tariff. The judicial review will then receive a full hearing on a date still to be set. Leave for another judicial review has been granted to a female prisoner at the same jail. Anna Corry, who has served 13 years of a life sentence for paramilitary offences, has claimed that male prisoners in Maghaberry receive more privileges than women. Ms Corry, in her application for leave to apply for a judicial review, said men serving long-term sentences were better treated than she was. Her case will be heard next month.