07 Jul 2022

Louth men convicted of trying to acquire arms for REAL IRA seek damages for period spent in unlawful detention

Louth men convicted of trying to acquire arms for REAL IRA seek damages for period spent in unlawful detention

Three men who received lengthy prison sentences for trying to acquire weapons for the Real IRA are seeking damages for the period of their incarceration that was deemed by the Irish Courts to have been unlawful.

The actions have been brought by Fintan O Farrell, Declan Rafferty and Michael McDonald who are all from Co Louth.

The state defendants reject their claims and says their rights were not breached and that they are not entitled to any award of damages.

The three, following an attempt to source arms and the financial support of the Iraqi Government, were arrested by Slovak police in July 2001 after they had met with who the men believed were Iraqi arms dealers.

The 'dealers' were in fact undercover British security agents. Following their arrest, the three were extradited to England. 

In 2002 they all pleaded guilty, before a London court, to conspiracy to cause explosions as well as charges under the UK's 2000 Terrorism Act and ultimately received prison sentences of 28 years.

In 2006 they were transferred to Ireland, where they were detained at Portlaoise Prison.

In 2014 the High Court found that the continued detention of O'Farrell, Rafferty with addresses in Carlingford, and McDonald from Dundalk was unlawful.

This was because of differences between the UK and Ireland's sentencing systems including that prisoner in Ireland are entitled to one quarter remission of their sentences whereas in the UK one third remission normally applies, and the court directed that they be released from custody. 

The courts, arising out of an earlier case brought by Sligo man Vincent Sweeney, held that the warrants allowing their transfer form a UK prison to Ireland were defective in referring to the men's 28-year sentences and not the term they should have served, which was 18 years and eight months.

The warrents should have referred to a definite term of two thirds of their sentences they received in the UK, the Irish courts further held.

In an action that opened before Mr Justice Cian Ferriter on Tuesday the men are each seeking an award of damages for the time, between 2006 and 2014, that they spent in prison which the Irish courts deemed to be unlawful.

The period of false imprisonment, they claim, amounts to breach of their constitutional right to liberty.

Represented by Micheal Ó Higgins SC, David Conlan Smith SC and Declan Higgins Bl instructed by solicitor John Quinn the men's claims are against the Minister for Justice, Ireland and the Attorney General and the Governor of Portlaoise Prison.

They claim that the defendants were negligent on grounds including that they allowed the men to be imprisoned on foot of an order that was invalid and failed to observe their rights to liberty.

The men claim that they spent eight years in Portlaoise Prison, which was described as an old facility with poor heating and where they had to 'slop out' their cells every morning.

They sought the transfers for family reasons, the courts heard.

The defendants, represented by Robert Baron SC with Siobhan Ni Chúlacháin Bl oppose the claims and deny the men's allegations.

The men are not entitled to damages, the defendants claim. 

The defendants claim that the men were lawfully sentenced in the UK.

Had they remained in that jurisdiction they would not have been released until April 2020.

The defendants claim that they were required by law to act in accordance with the warrants and no cause of action for damages can flow from their actions.

It is also alleged that the claims are an abuse of process and should be dismissed.

The hearing continues.

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