A High Court judge has said he hopes Declan "Whacker" Duffy will be allowed to return to Ireland to serve out a life sentence for the murder of a British army sergeant in Derby in 1992.
While ordering the republican paramilitary's extradition to the UK, Mr Justice Paul Burns said that he sympathises with Duffy after reading an affidavit relating to the health of one of his family members. Mr Duffy had sought to be allowed to remain in Ireland on humanitarian grounds despite a High Court decision to extradite him to the UK to finish serving his life sentence.
Mr Justice Burns said that while he sympathises with Duffy, he cannot make decisions based on sympathy and the threshold for postponing extradition on humanitarian grounds is a high one.
He added: "It is up to the authorities [Irish and UK] to decide if he is suitable for transfer. I hope that is the case but it's not for this court to determine."
Duffy (45), with a last address at Hannover Street West in Dublin, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of British army sergeant Michael Newman in Derby City in 1992 but was released on license by a Northern Irish parole board in March 2013.
He was arrested by gardaí on December 5, 2015 and later jailed by the Special Criminal Court for six years for falsely imprisoning Martin Byrne in Rathcoole/Saggart, County Dublin on June 9, 2015. Following that conviction, on June 6, 2016, the Under Secretary of State for Northern Ireland revoked Mr Duffy's license and recalled him to prison. A European Arrest Warrant (EAW) was issued for his arrest.
Duffy's extradition has been on hold while he served his sentence for false imprisonment but Mr Justice Burns today lifted that postponement order, allowing him to be surrendered to the UK authorities within the next 25 days.
Mark Lynam BL for Duffy today told Mr Justice Burns that affidavits and medical evidence had been submitted to the court and that he was asking for a four-week postponement of the extradition to allow the authorities here and in Northern Ireland to consider whether Duffy could be held in prison in the Republic to serve out his sentence. He said there is a real risk that his extradition will "impact in a very negative way" on the health of one of Duffy's family members. He added that his rehabilitation will be affected if extradited at this time.
Counsel further submitted that Duffy's possible transfer to Ireland is being considered as a matter of urgency by the authorities and that a four-week postponement would give them enough time.
Ronan Kennedy BL for the Minister for Justice said there is no evidence that the application for transfer would be dealt with in four weeks. He added that the application for postponement on humanitarian grounds did not meet the threshold for such applications.
Mr Justice Burns said he commends Duffy for engaging with rehabilitation services while in prison and that he sympathises with him in his application to be allowed to remain in Ireland on humanitarian grounds. The judge said Duffy had applied to be transferred to Ireland before having to actually travel to Northern Ireland and added that it is "unfortunate" that the authorities were not "sufficiently active" to process that application before now.
The application for postponement of his extradition was made under section 18 of the European Arrest Warrant Act 2003. Mr Justice Burns said the act applies in cases of "manifest danger to the life or health" of the person being extradited and is therefore a high threshold.
He said he does not want to reveal details of the medical evidence submitted to the court but added: "I'm sympathetic to the circumstances Mr Duffy finds himself in so I wanted to give him the best opportunity to put forward his case."
He said he had considered the application at some length, adding: "I can't determine on the basis of sympathy and despite my sympathy I must refuse the application as it does not meet the threshold of serious humanitarian reasons."
Mr Justice Burns lifted the postponement order and told Mr Duffy that he is entitled to make a habeus corpus application at any time between now and his surrender to the UK.