The High Court will decide today if it will deal with a freedom application by jailed IRA leader Michael McKevitt before a Supreme Court hearing on remission on Friday. Mr Justice Bernard Barton yesterday said he would consider evidence and legal submissions as well as two judgments by High Court colleagues on remission of sentences before giving his decision.
McKevitt was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in August 2003 after being convicted in the Special Criminal Court of directing a terrorist organisation and of being a member of the Real IRA. His sentence had been backdated to March 29th, 2001.
Both Mr Justice Max Barrett and Mr Justice Gerard Hogan have directed the immediate release of prisoners Eddie Ryan Junior and Niall Farrell on the grounds they were being held unlawfully after the Minister for Justice refused to grant them a one-third remission of sentences instead of the usual quarter remission.
Michael O'Higgins SC, who appeared for McKevitt, told Mr Justice Barton that while both his colleagues' judgments were under appeal to the Supreme Court the matters would not be heard until Friday.
He said McKevitt’s application was of extreme urgency and had been brought before the court under article 40 of the Constitution. If McKevitt was correct, then he should have been released on July 26th. As a result of the Minister’s refusal to grant him a third remission he would, unless ruled otherwise by the High Court, not be released until November.
It has been argued in this and previous release applications that when a prisoner is of good behaviour and has engaged in authorised structured activities aimed at preparing him for release and reintegration into society with a lesser likelihood of reoffending, then he is entitled to a full one-third remission.
Diarmaid McGuinness SC said the two existing High Court judgments may be unambiguous as Mr O’Higgins had said, but they were both under appeal and the State had put in submissions to say they were erroneous interpretations of the law.