A west Belfast man convicted of rioting during events surrounding the military killing of his brother and nine other people has won a 44-year battle to clear his name.
Terry Laverty’s conviction was quashed after a judge in Belfast was told the Public Prosecution Service was not opposing his appeal.
His brother John was among 10 people shot dead by the British parachute regiment during an operation in the city’s Ballymurphy district in August 1971.
The massacre, over three days of gunfire, was one of the most bloody and controversial episodes of the Troubles.
A priest and a mother-of-eight were among the civilians shot dead by British soldiers who said they opened fire after being shot at by republicans.
Terry Laverty (61) was found guilty of riotous behaviour and sentenced to six months in prison based only on evidence from a private in the regiment.
But his case was referred back to Belfast County Court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, a body which examines potential miscarriages of justice. It took the decision based on new evidence that the sole evidence against Mr Laverty conviction has since been retracted by the witness.
In court today it was announced that the Director of Public Prosecutions, Bara McGrory QC, was not resisting the appeal.
On that basis the judge confirmed: “The conviction and sentence are quashed.”
Family and friends gathered alongside Mr Laverty applauded in court at the outcome.
Mr Laverty’s barrister stressed in court that the solitary evidence came from a paratrooper who claimed he had memorised the faces of rioters. But the soldier had just signed a witness statement without reading its contents, it was claimed.
Outside court Mr Laverty said he has finally been proven innocent while the paratrooper has admitted his guilt.
In a statement he recalled how his unarmed civilian brother John was “murdered” on August 11th, 1971. “As he lay in the street bleeding to death I was being arrested, just yards away,” he said. “It was two days before I knew he was dead and almost two days before my parents knew that I was not.”
Mr Laverty said his wrongful conviction and imprisonment was based on the word of a soldier who has admitted, more than 40 years later that he lied.
“He lied in his statement and he lied in court. I was not rioting. There was no riot,” he added. “At my brothers inquest, the soldier who shot him said my brother was armed. He said he was a gunman. He was the same soldier who has admitted his evidence against me was a total fabrication.”
Mr Laverty’s solicitor, Joe McVeigh, said it had been a privilege to represent him. He confirmed efforts will be made to seek to have the solider and those who allegedly conspired with him questioned and charged with perjury.
“Forty four years later it’s clearly in the public interest to do so,” the lawyer insisted. Mr McVeigh added: “We also intend to issue civil proceedings on behalf of Mr Laverty given the wrongful conviction and the damage to his good name and reputation.”