3rd September 2003;
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) has today referred the conviction of Mr Paschal Mulholland back to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal for a full re-hearing and a fresh Appeal.
Mr Mulholland was convicted by Belfast City Commissioners of membership of the Fianna Na H’Eireann on March 1, 1976, at the age of 16. He was questioned for 2 days without an adult or a solicitor present at any time by Senior RUC Officers. He endured a rigorous schedule of interviews over the 2 day period. One interview was conducted over 5 hours.
At midnight on October 18th 1976 after verbal threats and physical maltreatment Mr Mulholland signed a statement written by the RUC admitting to membership and petrol bombing on September 26th 1976. His trial commenced on March 1st 1977. He called alibi evidence which was perversely accepted by the Trial Judge in acquitting him on the petrol bombing charge but the same evidence was rejected in respect of the membership charge.
The CCRC has today referred the case back to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal on the grounds that;
(a)The circumstances of Mr Mulholland’s detention and interview were oppressive in the extreme,
(b)The absence of a solicitor or an adult during the interviews render the alleged confession unreliable, and
(c)New evidence has been unearthed in relation to the disciplinary history of two of the interviewing officers involved in Mr Mulholland’s case.
The CCRC investigated the disciplinary records of the interviewing RUC officers and found that two of them had subsequently been investigated for assault on a suspect during interview in 1975. That assault allegation was investigated by the DPP and as a result a charge of murder was withdrawn. That case also involved an alleged statement of admission. The CCRC submits that the subsequent investigation of a complaint against these police officers and the withdrawal of the murder charge amounts to new evidence which the Court of Appeal should take into account when considering the reliability of the alleged confession by Mr Mulholland.
Mr Mulholland said today;
“I have lived with this wrongful conviction since 1977. I was just a teenager when I was brutalised by the RUC. I have no doubt that when the Court of Appeal hears the full facts they will quash this conviction.”
Patricia Coyle of Harte Coyle Collins, Solicitors & Solicitor Advocates representing Mr Mulholland said today;
“The CCRC are sufficiently concerned in Mr Mulholland’s case that the law as it applied at the time to the detention of juveniles was blatantly breached. More importantly the CCRC have concluded that the interviewing police officers conduct at other interviews in other unrelated cases undermines the credibility and reliability of these officers as a prosecution witnesses generally. This new development may have serious repercussions for hundreds of other similar cases.”