Gerry McGeough may have had “formidable references from the very highest echelons of our society“, but they weren’t formidable enough. The BBC report that the Court of Appeal has dismissed his bid to be granted a Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM).
[Gerry McGeough] claimed it was unlawful to treat him differently to others because he previously served jail terms in Germany and the United States.
His lawyers advanced a number of comparison cases involving others who received the RPM.
These included: James McArdle, the Armagh sniper responsible for the 1996 London Docklands bombing; the IRA men convicted for their part in the murder of SAS Captain Herbert Westmacott in Belfast in 1980; and six of those who broke out of the Maze Prison in 1983.
But Sir Anthony Hart, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Morgan and Mr Justice Gillen, held that McGeough was in a different category.
Rejecting the appeal, he said: “We accept that the circumstances of the decision to exercise the RPM in each of these cases were consistent and based upon the position that only those who had served a period of two years imprisonment within the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland should be considered for the exercise of the RPM.
“These two countries were the only countries who were signatories to the Belfast Agreement, and it was entirely understandable for the respondent (the Secretary of State) to take the view that only those who had served two years imprisonment in either of those countries, or whose circumstances were very closely analogous thereto in the case of McArdle, should benefit from the exercise of the RPM to ensure that they be released after having served at least two years’ incarceration in either country.
“This cannot be said to be the position so far as Mr McGeough is concerned… and we can see no inequality or unfairness in the way his case was treated by the respondent.”
To paraphrase what Brian said, of course, the judges have to deal with the case before them.
And the judges don’t seem to have taken into account any “political considerations”.
Even though Sinn Fein representatives recently met McGeough in prison, and have called for his release, he alleged that the party failed to lobby the government strongly enough on his behalf.
But Sir Anthony concluded: “There is no evidence before us to support Mr McGeough’s assertion that there is some form of deal between Sinn Fein and the government to prevent the exercise of the RPM in Mr McGeough’s favour.”
Gerry McGeough will, however, be eligible for early release in 2013 under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.