Court dismisses O'Shea appeal


The High Court has dismissed a bid by a man sentenced to death for his role in the murder of two gardaí following an armed robbery more than 30 years ago to be released from prison.

Colm O'Shea, who is currently detained in Portlaoise Prison, was sentenced to death by the non jury Special Criminal Court in November 1980 after being found guilty, with two others, of the murders of Det Garda John Morley and Garda Henry Byrne.

The murders of the two gardaí, which occurred near Loughglynn, Co Roscommon in July 1980, shocked the nation.

On the advice of the government. the then president Dr Patrick Hillery commuted that sentence in 1981 to "one of penal servitude of 40 years".

In proceedings against the State, O'Shea - who is one of Ireland's longest serving prisoners - sought an inquiry under Article 40.4.2 of the Constitution into the lawfulness of his detention.

He claimed he had served his sentence and asked the High Court to order his release.

In his judgment today, Mr Justice John Edwards dismissed O'Shea's bid to be released and found that he is lawfully detained. The judge further added that many of the arguments raised by O'Shea in his application were "unfounded".

O'Shea was not present in court when the judgment was delivered.

He brought the application arising out what he claimed was the State's refusal to grant him remission on the 40 year sentence he is serving, and argued that he was entitled to be released.

He claimed there was no evidence Mr Hillery had decreed that the 40 year sentence should be served without remission. On that basis the State's decision that he would get no remission was both unconstitutional and unlawful, O'Shea claimed.

The decision to exclude him from remission was a sentencing exercise carried out by the executive and not by judges, and was therefore contrary to his rights under the European Convention, he also submitted.

O'Shea also argued that the Government's refusal to grant him remission was arbitrary, discriminatory, contrary to the constitution and the European Convention of Human Rights.

He also claimed he was not given an opportunity to make representations to an independent tribunal about the denial of remission.

O'Shea was convicted alongside two others, Peter Pringle and Patrick McCann, of the murders.

Mr Pringle's conviction was overturned in 1995.