WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
January 25 2023
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO

Appeal judges to review murder conviction of four soldiers killed in a 1970s IRA landmine attack

Appeal judges to review murder conviction of four soldiers killed in a 1970s IRA landmine attack

Image from 'More Rough Justice' by Peter Hill, Martin Young and Tom Sargant, 1985

Appeal judges are to hear the case of a man who received a life sentence for the murder of four soldiers in a Northern Ireland landmine attack in 1975.

The miscarriage of justice watchdog yesterday announced that it was sending the case of Patrick Thompson to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal in relation to his involvement in went is known as the Forkhill landmine attack. He claims that the admissions he made which resulted in his wrongful conviction were only made as a result of the ‘inhuman and degrading treatment’ by the police.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the case on the grounds that there is a real possibility that the Court of Appeal will find his conviction to be ‘unsafe’ ‘because the senior officer who led the investigation was not a credible witness’. Thompson received a life sentence with a 30-year minimum term for the explosion which happened early in the morning of July 17th, 1975 on the road between Dundalk and Newtownhamilton, is often referred to as the ‘Forkhill landmine attack’.

The prosecution relied upon admissions that Thompson was alleged to have made in police custody. He argues that the admissions were the result of ill-treatment by the police.  Around a year after his sentencing in March 1977, Mr Thompson’s appeal against conviction was heard. According to the CCRC: ‘He repeated that his admissions had been the result of inhuman and degrading treatment by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and as such should have been excluded from his 1976 trial. However, his appeal was unsuccessful.’

Mr Thompson applied to the CCRC over four years ago and the CCRC watchdog claims to have found ‘compelling evidence that calls into question the credibility of the senior investigating police officer who questioned him at the time of his arrest’. The same police officer was  criticised by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal’s decision (R v Latimer, Hegan, Bell and Allen [1992] 1 NIJB 89).

Having considered the Court’s findings in that case, the CCRC argues the officer’s credibility had been ‘substantially weakened’. On that basis there is a real possibility that the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal would conclude that Mr Thompson’s conviction is unsafe.