A LEGAL challenge is to be made on the powers of the Life Sentence Review Board after its members refused to explain why they would not recommend the release of one of the Casement Three.
Solicitors for west Belfast man Michael Timmons are seeking a judicial review of the board’s decision to not to refer his case back to the Secretary of State for re-consideration. Through his lawyer, Angela Ritchie, Mr Timmons is also seeking parity with prisoners in England and Wales, where disclosure (the handing over of relevant documents to an accused’s solicitor) is automatic. At present the Life Sentence Review Board in the north is not compelled to hand over documents – or even to give a reason why a parole request has been turned down. Life sentence prisoners Patrick Kane, Sean Kelly and Michael Timmons have consistently denied involvement in the killing of two army corporals at Casement Park in March 1988. A long-running campaign has so far failed to have their convictions overturned. Hopes for the men’s release soared recently when the Life Sentence Review Board decided to consider Mr Timmons’s case after seven years imprisonment, instead of the normal ten years. While the board itself cannot order the release of a prisoner, it has the power to make recommendations to the Secretary of State or defer consideration of the case until a later date. Relatives believed the move signalled Mr Timmons’s imminent release and would also provide an important precedent for his two co-accused. Despite the positive signals, however, the board refused Mr Timmons’s application and told him he could not apply again until next year. Angela Ritchie, of Madden and Finucane Solicitors, told the Irish News last night she had applied for, and been granted, leave to apply for a judicial review of the board’s decision. “Mr Timmons and his co-accused were hopeful that this early review would lead to a recommendation by the LSRB that they be released. … Also before this review took place, we requested the LSRB to provide us with disclosure of the documents on which they were relying for our client’s review. We made this request to enable our client to make effective representations to the board about his review. “However, the Life Sentence Review Board refused this request. Consequently we were instructed to challenge the procedure by which the LSRB and the Secretary of State review the cases of life sentence prisoners in Northern Ireland and also the decision by the LSRB not to review our client’s case for another year,” Ms Ritchie said. Leave to apply for the judicial review was granted last week by Mr Justice Kerr. The case is expected to be heard later this year.