McKevitt should be freed now, High Court told

Michael McKevitt — who is serving a 20-year sentence for directing terrorism and membership of the Real IRA — is entitled to immediate release arising from recent legal rulings concerning remission rights, the High Court has been told.

McKevitt, aged 59, of Beech Park, Blackrock, Co Louth, was convicted in 2003 but had his sentence backdated to 2001 as he was in prison on remand since then.

In his challenge to his continuing detention, he argues he is entitled to one-third remission of his sentence arising from good behaviour and participation in structured activities in Portlaoise Prison. In court yesterday, Michael O’Higgins, for McKevitt, said the Supreme Court had decided last August such a case should proceed via judicial review rather than a constitutional challenge to the legality of detention. His side wanted an urgent hearing of their judicial review as it was their case McKevitt should be out of jail, he said.

Counsel said recent High Court decisions by Mr Justice Gerard Hogan and Mr Justice Max Barrett concerning rights to remission would be relied on in support of their case. A number of applications for release have been brought under Article 40 of the Constitution by prisoners arising from those decisions, he said.

If Mr Justice Hogan was right in his decision concerning the right to one third remission, McKevitt “should be at liberty now”, counsel said. In those circumstances, the matter should be heard urgently.

Diarmaid McGuinness, for the State, said the arguments advanced did not necessarily mean McKevitt should be set free if he won his case.

President of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said the court was hard-pressed due to a shortage of judges but he would try and facilitate an early hearing of the case.

He said he had no judges available and he did not know when the seven new judges for the High Court would be approved. The best counsel could do was take their chances and he would try and ensure the case got a level of priority. The case could be mentioned again today.


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