Top UK court quashes Gerry Adams' prison break convictions

Top UK court quashes Gerry Adams' prison break convictions”

Gerry Adams has won his appeal to have two convictions for attempting to escape from prison in the 1970s overturned.

While Adams did not dispute the two escape attempts, his lawyers argued that he had not been lawfully detained in the first place and so could not have been convicted of escaping from legal custody.

An additional prison sentence of four and a half years was implemented for his escape attempts.

However, prison staff were alerted to the plan and Mr Adams was arrested in the vehicle park of the jail, the court was told.

Nearly 2,000 people suspected of being involved in paramilitary organisations were imprisoned without trial in Northern Ireland during this period.

Mr Adams has consistently denied being a member of the IRA.

The former Sinn Féin leader welcomed the Supreme Court's decision, saying internment without trial "set aside the normal principles of law and was based on a blunt and brutal piece of coercive legislation".

Following the court ruling today, Gerry Adams said the British Government should now review other similar cases.

At a hearing held remotely to comply with social distancing rules amid the coronavirus pandemic, five Supreme Court judges ruled that because then-Northern Ireland Secretary Willie Whitelaw had not "considered personally" the order to detain Adams in 1973, it was invalid.

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"Mr. Adams's detention was unlawful, hence his convictions of attempting to escape from lawful custody were, likewise, unlawful", Judge Lord Kerr said at Wednesday's hearing.

These exposed concern within Harold Wilson's incoming Labour government in 1974 that Mr Adams' detention had been signed only by a Tory junior minister and not by the future Lord Whitelaw.

He explained that Mr Adams, a former West Belfast MP, had been detained under an ICO made under the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 and that "such an order could be made where the secretary of state considered that an individual was involved in terrorism".

The "momentous" decision on whether to detain a person without trial, potentially for a limitless period, should have been made by the secretary of state himself, the Supreme Court ruling said.

He said: "I have no regrets about my imprisonment, except for the time I was separated from my family". "The appeal is therefore allowed and his convictions are quashed".

He went on to lead Sinn Fein for decades before retiring as president in 2018 and did not contest his seat in the Irish parliament during this year's general election.

"Lord Kerr gives the judgment with which the other members of the court agree".

Mr Adams said last night the case was not about compensation but he added: 'That's maybe work for another day'.

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said IRA victims will be "angered and bewildered". "That is a lot more than hundreds of victims of the IRA are able to do".

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