IRA wrongful convictions campaign begins

The redoubtable correspondent Henry McDonald has a notable scoop with his report that “up to 300 IRA members are to attempt to have their convictions overturned and sue the British government for compensation for wrongful imprisonment… The move follows the success of Danny Morrison, Sinn Féin’s former publicity director, in overturning his 1991 conviction for the false imprisonment of IRA informer Sandy Lynch a year earlier”.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission recommended that his case go back to the court of appeal, which this summer cleared him.

My trouble is, I can find no trace that this final move has actually been made by the Court of Appeal. If it has, it appears to have been kept mighty quiet. Given Morrison’s profile, this seems unlikely. I’m quite prepared to have egg on my face if proved wrong but it would be good to clear it up. It is of course known, as Slugger noted last month, that the Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the case back to the Court of Appeal. Some may believe that this move virtually amounts to acquittal as an established fact, but I doubt if the Appeal Court judges would agree.

However, assuming the Morrison conviction is finally overturned, will it prompt an avalanche of successful compensation awards in cases linked to information from Stakeknife and other informer sources?

As such evidence was not directly admissible, presumably the grounds for overturning the convictions would have to be more widely based. So stand by for notable legal wrangles.

The timing of this story could suggest we’re seeing a major gambit in a game to clean up the IRA’s image to enhance Sinn Fein’s fitness for government including the devolution of policing and justice and buttress their threat to pull the plug if they don’t get their way.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London