Man to appeal murder conviction in Europe

A NORTH Belfast man whose appeal against a murder conviction was thrown out by the House of Lords, is to test a European ruling in a bid to have his conviction quashed.

Solicitors for Ardoyne man Thomas McWilliams have lodged an application with the Criminal Cases Review Commission – the body set up to investigate miscarriages of justice – seeking an appeal.

They claim he was denied access to legal advice – and argue his subsequent conviction was based on uncorroborated admissions.

Mr McWilliams was convicted for the 1993 murder of Protestant grocer Norman Truesdale who was gunned down at his shop on the corner of Oldpark Road and Century Street in north Belfast.

The 39-year-old father of four was shot in the chest, neck, hand and back at point-blank range by two gunmen with a handgun and rifle.

The IRA alleged that Mr Truesdale was a loyalist paramilitary, although that claim was strongly denied by his family.

At the trial the judge rejected defence arguments that the Ardoyne man’s verbal confession had been obtained through “torture, inhuman and degrading treatment while being denied access to his solicitor”.

The judge said that the accused had not retracted his confession even after seeing a solicitor.

An appeal against the conviction was dismissed in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in 1996. In February 1997 he was allowed leave to appeal to the House of Lords.

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.

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”.

“Mr McWilliams’ case is one of hundreds in which people were convicted in the Diplock courts on the basis of uncorroborated admissions over the years.”