European ruling offers appeal test

A DERRY man jailed for life for his part in the murder of a British soldier is to test a European landmark ruling in a bid to have his conviction quashed.

John McDevitt, originally from Lisfannon Park in the Bogside, was convicted by a Diplock court in December 1986 despite concerns at the time over his detention at Castlereagh holding centre.

His solicitors, who have lodged an application with the Criminal Cases Review Commission seeking an appeal, claim he was denied proper access to legal advice and argue his convictions were based on uncorroborated admissions.

Private Neil Clarke (20) of the 2nd Queen’s Own regiment from Margate, was shot in the head as he jumped from his stricken Land Rover after it came under sustained petrol bomb attack.

Mr McDevitt, who was 21 years old at the time of his conviction, denied ferrying the gunman to the scene but admitted transporting petrol bombs to the area.

The move to seek an appeal comes in the wake of a landmark ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on the treatment of defendants at detention centres.

Antrim man Gerard Magee, who was convicted on a string of convictions, including conspiracy to murder in 1990, successfully tested the ruling after the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions against him.

The appeal court overturned the conviction after the European court ruled that the British government was wrong to hold Mr Magee, from Niblock Road in Antrim, for 48 hours without access to a solicitor.

It was believed that the ruling, which was successfully tested last April, would pave the way for similar applications.

Madden and Finucane said the European court observed that the conditions in Castlereagh were intended to be “psychologically coercive” and designed to “sap the will of the suspect”.

The application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission involves a request to refer the case back to the Court of Appeal as “a matter of urgency”.