Loyalist gunman Michael Stone to serve minimum of 30 years
Judge says professional killings were politically motivated and directed at a section of the community
Security personnel detain and disarm Michael Stone in the lobby of the Stormont parliament buildings in Northern Ireland in November 2006. Reuters
Loyalist gunman Michael Stone must serve a minimum 30 years in jail for his part in a sectarian murder campaign, Northern Ireland’s most senior judge ruled today.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan identified no mitigating factors for a series of gun and bomb attacks.
He said: “Stone offered his services as a killer to any loyalist paramilitary group who would use him.”
His decision on the prison term means the 58-year-old - who was freed for a six-year period under the terms of the Belfast Agreement - may not be considered for release until 2024.
Stone was jailed for life in 1989. He had been convicted of six counts of murder, five attempted killings and three charges of conspiracy to murder.
Among those he killed were three men attending an IRA funeral in Milltown Cemetery, west Belfast in March 1988. A large number of people were injured during this attack.
He was also the gunman in another three separate murders. Milkman Patrick Brady was murdered in south Belfast November 1984, 12 months before joiner Kevin McPolin was shot dead in Lisburn, Co Antrim.
In May 1987 Dermott Hackett, a bread server, was shot dead in his van between Drumquin and Omagh.
Stone also confessed to a series of attempted murders and plots to kill, including a failed bid to assassinate Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness during the late eighties.
Stone said he travelled to Derry by train before being picked up and taken to the republican politician’s home where he intended to shoot him through a bathroom window.
Stone later returned to the city and even went to the school Mr McGuinness’s children attended but decided against carrying out an attack there, the court heard.
“He said that he then decided to attempt a ‘head shot’ at Mr McGuiness in a newsagents where he attended every morning,” Sir Declan said. His intended high-profile murder target failed to turn up.
Stone also told police that he had been asked to “do a hit” at the Enniskillen home of MP Owen Carron.
Stone had been released early as part of the Belfast Agreement. He was sent back to jail after turning up at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, in November 2006 armed with explosives, knives, an axe and garrotte.
He was convicted of attempting to murder Mr McGuinness, along with party colleague Gerry Adams, and given a 16-year sentence.
However, Sir Declan’s ruling dealt only with the life sentence imposed for Stone’s original murders.
It determines the minimum term he must serve before any release can even be considered, based on a risk assessment. Stone made no representations and did not want an oral hearing before the ruling was delivered.
Backing the sentence imposed by the trial judge, Sir Declan said: “In this case the killings were professional.
“The killings were politically motivated in that they were directed at a section of the public identified by Stone as holding certain political views.”
Stone armed himself with extensive weaponry, including a range of firearms, for his campaign of multiple murders, the judge pointed out.
“There are serious aggravating factors. The effects on victims will live with them forever,” Sir Declan added.
“The learned trial judge recommended a minimum term of 30 years before he should be considered for release and I agree. The appropriate minimum term in this case should be 30 years.”