A test case over the convictions of alleged paramilitaries, mainly as a result of their confession statements, opened in the court of appeal in Belfast yesterday. The case of Gerard Magee (36), of Niblock Road, Antrim, was referred to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission following a judgment by the European court of human rights last June. It held that Magee’s admission at Castlereagh Holding Centre, Belfast, after he was denied access to a solicitor for more than two days was in breach of his right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention. Magee was convicted in December 1990 on charges of conspiracy to murder soldiers and cause an explosion as well as IRA membership. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and served almost half that before being released under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. His solicitor, of Madden and Finucane, said the case had potentially huge implications for all those whose convictions were based wholly or substantially on confessions obtained at Castlereagh or Gough Barracks, Armagh, from the introduction of the Criminal Evidence Order 1988 and possibly before that. “The case raises the prospect that any conviction over the last 12 years based on such confessions will be open to challenge.” Magee was in court to hear his lawyer Seamus Treacy QC argue the case before the three appeal judges who are expected to reserve judgment when the hearing ends.