A LANDMARK hearing which overturned the conviction of a former prisoner could pave the way for similar applications. Gerard Magee (36) of Niblock Road, Antrim, was convicted in 1990 of a string of offences including conspiracy to murder and cause an explosion. He served half of a 20–year sentence, being released under the terms of the Good Friday agreement. But at the court of appeal in Belfast yesterday the convictions against the former prisoner were quashed. The ruling came after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the British government was wrong to hold Mr Magee for 48 hours without access to a solicitor. In a reserved judgment the Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell recalled that Mr Magee claimed at his trial that his confession was the result of ill–treatment by the RUC, but it was rejected by the judge at the time. The Lord Chief Justice referred to the ruling of the ECHR which concluded that the denial of access to a solicitor and the conditions of Castlereagh Holding Centre were a violation of the convention. He said: “We consider that we would not be justified in concluding that the conviction was safe in the light of this finding. “If other cases come before us concerning admissions made in Castlereagh by persons whose access to legal advice was deferred, we shall take the ECHR’s decision in the present case into account.” Mr Magee, who was represented by solicitors Madden and Finucane, told of his delight at the outcome. “I am absolutely delighted with the judgment. It is the end result of a long legal process,” he said. “Many people were abused in Castlereagh and Gough barracks. I do hope that this will lead to many opportunities for people to seek legal redress.” Patricia Coyle, of Madden and Finucane, said: “This is an important judgement, not only for Gerard, but for others who have been convicted by Diplock courts, either wholly or substantially, on alleged confession evidence extracted under the regimes of Castlereagh and Gough barracks without access to legal advice.” Sinn Fein’s Alex Maskey also welcomed the ruling. “The judgment is clear, the RUC violated the European Convention on Human Rights in order to achieve miscarriage of justice.”