The conviction of an alleged IRA youth wing member is to be referred to the Court of Appeal amid question marks over his confession three decades ago, it was revealed today.
Joseph Fitzpatrick, now aged in his 40s, pleaded guilty to the republican group membership during his original Belfast trial because he believed protest futile.
That followed his confession in a police holding cell at the notorious Castlereagh holding centre, Belfast.
He was also convicted of arson and conspiracy to provide information to terrorists in November 1977 and sentenced to five years imprisonment.
A spokesman for the the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) said: “Having considered a range of issues, including the circumstances in which he confessed, the CCRC has decided to refer the case to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.”
The Commission is an independent public body established to consider possible miscarriages of justice.
Mr Fitzpatrick was arrested in March 1977 aged 16.
He pleaded guilty to membership of a proscribed organisation, the youth wing of the IRA Fianna, and conspiracy to provide information to terrorists.
His lawyer, Patricia Coyle from Harte Coyle Collins Solicitors, said: “The importance of this referral lies in the fact that Mr Fitzpatrick did not run a trial in 1977 on the basis that it was futile to do so.
“Despite his plea of guilty at the time and the absence of an appeal, the CCRC has nonetheless referred this case back to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal because of the circumstances of his detention and the extraction of the alleged confession.”