McKevitt appeal against terrorism conviction rejected
Court of Criminal Appeal find s application ‘unstatable and unarguable’
Michael McKevitt’s lawyers had argued his conviction for directing terrorist activities should be set aside because a search warrant used to search his home was issued under section 29 of the Offences Against the State Act. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
The Court of Criminal Appeal has dismissed a bid by Co Louth man Michael McKevitt to have his conviction for directing terrorism declared a miscarriage of justice.
McKevitt (63) in August 2003 became the first person in the history of the State to be jailed for directing terrorist activities.
The three-judge appeal court comprising Mr Justice John MacMenamin, presiding and sitting with Mr Justice Éamon de Valera and Mr Justice Brian McGovern, yesterday found McKevitt’s application, made under section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Act, was “unstatable and unarguable”. The State, in a preliminary application, had asked the court to strike out the application as an abuse of process. McKevitt’s lawyers had argued his conviction for directing terrorist activities should be set aside because a search warrant used to search his home was issued under section 29 of the Offences Against the State Act. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled section 29 was unconstitutional in the case brought by Ali Charaf Damache. It was also argued that evidence used against McKevitt at his trial was taken while he was not legally represented. The State asked the appeal court to dismiss the application on grounds it was not based on any new or newly discovered fact. The State also argued McKevitt had exhausted all rights of appeal and the case had reached finality.
McKevitt’s lawyers argued his application should be allowed to proceed to the full hearing.
In its ruling, the appeal court said the jurisdiction to strike out a case must be exercised sparingly but McKevitt’s case was unstatable and it was the court’s duty to dismiss the application.
The Supreme Court had in the Damache case made clear its ruling applied only to those who had raised the validity of the section 29 warrants in their prosecution at their trial or at their appeal, it said. McKevitt’s appeal against his conviction had been concluded for many years before the Damache ruling was made.
In the circumstances, his application could not be regarded as arguable. To seek to redress a point finally determined for so many years went “beyond the point of feasibility or practicality” .
McKevitt was convicted in 2003 of IRA membership and of directing the activities of the IRA. He was jailed for 20 years. He lost appeals at the Court of Criminal Appeal in 2005 and the Supreme Court in 2008. Two years ago. he also lost an appeal against a Belfast civil court’s ruling which found him liable for the Omagh bombing.