Three men whose convictions for murdering a Co Antrim schoolboy were quashed should face a retrial, the Court of Appeal has heard.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed it is seeking fresh criminal proceedings against Aaron Wallace, Christopher Kerr and Jeff Lewis for the killing of Michael McIlveen.

But senior judges put off their decision on the application until the New Year so that defence lawyers can prepare further arguments against the move.

All three appellants will now remain in custody until 7 January.Fifteen-year-old Michael McIlveen died after being chased and attacked by a crowd in Ballymena in May 2006.

He was beaten with a baseball bat and allegedly kicked as he lay defenceless in an alleyway.

Wallace, 23, Kerr, 25, and Lewis, 22 – all from Ballymena – were all convicted of his murder and given minimum jail terms ranging from 10 to 13 years.

A fourth man, Mervyn Wilson Moon, 23, had admitted the killing at the start of the trial.

Earlier this week, the Court of Appeal ruled that the guilty verdicts returned against Wallace, Kerr and Lewis were unsafe due to flaws in how the jury was directed.

With an eight-week slot available in Antrim from 28 January for any new trial, the PPS was told to confirm its position by Friday.

Crown counsel John Orr QC told the Court of Appeal that he has spoken with the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory, senior police officers involved in the case, and the McIlveen family.

He said: “My application to the court will be that a retrial should be ordered.”

Frank O’Donoghue QC, for Kerr, urged judges not to make a decision at this stage.

After setting out how his client has served more than six and a half years in prison, the barrister said he wanted time to prepare further submissions.

Mr O’Donoghue added that he wanted to look at some press coverage.

Richard Weir QC, for Lewis, backed his colleague’s suggestion.

Mr Weir also told the court that he was in a difficult position due to an undisclosed but progressively deteriorating medical condition affecting Lewis.

Wallace’s solicitor, Peter Madden, raised the issue of bail for his client due to the quashing of his conviction.

But Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan sitting with lord Justices Higgins and Coghlin, stressed that the appellants currently remain charged with the offence.

Sir Declan then confirmed that defence teams would be given an opportunity to prepare written and oral arguments on the issue.

He listed the case for a hearing on 7 January , when any bail applications can also be made.

“We are keeping open the opportunity for a retrial, if that’s the order we make, (starting) on January 28,” Sir Declan said.