A man who has spent 31 years in prison for a murder he committed when he was a child does not pose a risk to society and should not be extradited to the UK, his barrister has told the High Court.
Roy Norman Kenyon absconded to Ireland in 2003 while serving his sentence for the murder of Margaret Potts, an elderly shopkeeper, whom he beat to death with a poker in 1971. Having lived in Ireland under an alias for the past 15 years, the 64-year-old is now facing the prospect of returning to the UK to continue serving the life sentence.
Ronan Kennedy BL, for the Minister for Justice, told the court last month that Kenyon was in the process of having his life sentence reviewed "when he made the conscious decision to become a fugitive".
Outlining the facts of the case, Mr Kennedy said Kenyon had been "consuming alcohol at a public house" on the night of his crime, when he left to purchase more alcohol from Mrs Potts. However, he soon got into an argument with her, before hitting her ‘two times in the head with a poker, while she sat in an armchair’.
The court heard that Kenyon had lived in Tullamore under the alias of Alan McPherson, before being arrested in the village of Eyeries, Co. Cork on May 2, 2018.
Opposing an application for his surrender to the UK today, Sean Guerin SC said that his client is not considered a risk to society. The focus of the probation officers report was on behavioural issues, coping skills and compliance with prison conditions and no concern was expressed for Kenyon's behaviour, argued Mr Guerin.
The barrister said his client is now an adult but was sentenced as a child and was considered to be at greater risk to society than the average prisoner because he had spent a longer time in custody. The lawyer said this logic was "fallacious" and unsupported by the evidence placed before the court.
Counsel said Kenyon has been at liberty for a long period of time and did not appear to have exhibited a risk to the public.
Mr Guerin said his client was eligible for release in the 1980s when he completed the punitive portion of his sentence. However, he will now serve an "indeterminate" sentence if he is surrendered to the UK, he said. There is no evidence in terms of his behaviour to suggest that he poses an "unacceptable risk" to the public, he added.
Mr Guerin also submitted that there is no commitment from the UK authorities that Kenyon's case will be reviewed at anytime before 2021. He said that his client is likely to find himself "back in the twilight zone" of having his life sentence reviewed every two years and further conditions being imposed.
Counsel pointed out that the only purpose for Kenyon's surrender to the UK is to serve a sentence for the protection of the public and no material has been put before the court which demonstrates "any such risk".
"We say that the court should not lend itself to that process and the very obvious injustice which will result," concluded Mr Guerin.
Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly said she had alot to think about and would reserve her judgment until May 21. Kenyon was remanded in custody until then.
Mr Kennedy told the court that over the years, there were a number of “comprehensive reviews of the case and a number of actions undertaken” but that there was “nothing to suggest” Mr Kenyon “had left the country or had any ties with anyone outside of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Kenyon’s barrister, Sean Guerin SC, addressed the court by saying that Mr Kennedy had missed many of the “striking features of this case.”
Mr Guerin pointed out how “the bald and ageing head of Mr Kenyon, an offender of 64 years” was “nonetheless a child offender” at the time the crime was committed.
It is an “exceptional state of affairs that a child offender has spent 31 years in custody and at this point almost 50 years later” that there is still a “desire to return him to custody” Mr Guerin told the court.
Mr Guerin pointed out how Mr Kenyon’s “mental development and maturity” at the time of the offence are factors that must be considered.
He also made the argument that Mr Kenyon’s sentence was an “indeterminate” one made “at her Majesty’s pleasure” and that this sentence is “not a case of life in prison in the formal sense” but rather “it is a different type of sentence that is imposed on a child offender which is not a true life sentence.”
Mr Guerin continued by explaining to the court that this is “not a case where you are dealing with a person who has committed any offence while at liberty” and that there is “no indication” that Mr Kenyon “is a risk to the public” anymore.
Mr Guerin revealed how Mr Kenyon had “no release date to work towards” after facing six parole hearings and that this is the reason he chose to escape custody.
Referring to the time Mr Kenyon’s parole was denied after he consumed alcohol while on home leave, Mr Guerin called this a “minor breach of a minor condition.”
Mr Guerin also criticised the central authority in the United Kingdom for failing to supply information relating to Mr Kenyon’s case including the affidavit.
Addressing suggestions that Mr Kenyon had “adjudications for selling drugs” and “positive drug tests,” Mr Guerin explained that while in prison Mr Kenyon was prescribed a strong painkiller “which may have had an impact on drug tests.”
Mr Kennedy later responded to Mr Guerin’s critique of the parole board by stating that there was “never a suggestion before this afternoon that the objections” made by the board were “unlawful” or in relation to the fact Mr Kenyon “had a drink” while on temporary leave.