Gerry Adams wins appeal against prison escape convictions

13 May 2020, 10:00

Gerry Adams has had his convictions quashed
Gerry Adams has had his convictions quashed. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Gerry Adams has won a Supreme Court appeal against two historic convictions for attempting to escape from the Maze Prison in the 1970s.

The former Sinn Fein leader had brought the case claiming two 1975 convictions relating to attempts to escape from the Maze Prison during the early 1970s are unsafe because the correct papers were not signed by the Northern Ireland Secretary at the time.

Announcing the unanimous judgment of the court, Lord Kerr said Mr Adams' detention was unlawful because it had not been "considered personally" by then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw.

Mr Adams attempted to escape from the Maze, also known as Long Kesh internment camp, on Christmas Eve 1973 and again in July 1974. He was later sentenced to a total of four and a half years.

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The judge said: "The making of the (interim custody order) in respect of the appellant was invalid since the Secretary of State had not himself considered it.

"In consequence, Mr Adams' detention was unlawful, hence his convictions of attempting to escape from lawful custody were, likewise, unlawful."

Lord Kerr added: "The appeal is therefore allowed and his convictions are quashed."

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Judges agreed the former Sinn Fein leader's detention was unlawful because it hadn't been 'considered personally' by the then Northern Ireland secretary.
Judges agreed the former Sinn Fein leader's detention was unlawful because it hadn't been 'considered personally' by the then Northern Ireland secretary. Picture: PA

Gerry Adams urged the British Government to identify and inform others whose internment may also have been unlawful.

"I have no regrets about my imprisonment, except for the time I was separated from my family. However, we were not on our own.

"It is believed that around 2,000 men and women were interned during its four-and-a-half years of operation.

"I consider my time in the prison ship Maidstone, in Belfast prison and in Long Kesh to have been in the company of many remarkable, resilient and inspiring people.

"Internment, like all coercive measures, failed.

"There is an onus on the British Government to identify and inform other internees whose internment may also have been unlawful."

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