11th September 2013; The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland has been urged by HCC Lawyers and Senior Counsel, Ms Karen Quinlivan Q.C. to order a compensation award for Joseph Fitzpatrick, whose convictions for alleged terrorist offences were quashed in 2009 after more than 30 years.
Joesph Fitzpatrick signed a false confession as a teenager after being questioned by police in the absence of a solicitor and parent/guardian in 1976. He subsequently pleaded guilty before a Diplock Court sitting at Crumlin Road courthouse in February 1977. The original conviction, based solely upon confession evidence, resulted in Mr Fitzpatrick serving 5 years in custody for membership of Fianna na hEireann and arson in February 1977. He was also convicted of involvement in a gun attack on an army patrol in December 1976 again based solely upon alleged confession evidence provided in the absence of legal advice and parental supervison while still a juvenille at the age of 16.
In May 2009, following an application by HCC Lawyers to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the Court of Criminal Appeal overturned Mr Fitzpatrick’s convictions ruling that the original guilty verdicts were unsafe as they were based solely upon the flawed false confessions.
After his conviction was quashed Mr Fitzpatrick’s legal team at HCC Lawyers applied for compensation to the Secretary of State under the statutory scheme set up for miscarriage of justice cases. The Secretary of State refused compensation despite the quashing of the convictions. The firm appealed the refusal.
In December 2011 the refusal was reaffirmed by the David Ford at the Department of Justice on the basis that the convictions were not quashed due to any new or newly discovered fact demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that the case involved a miscarriage of justice. A subsequent High Court action upheld the DoJ refusal. The refusal by the DoJ was appealed to the Court of Appeal on behalf of Mr Fitzpatrick.
The legal team for Mr Fitzpatrick argued before the Court of Appeal today that the Justice Minister David Ford had made a mistake in deciding that Mr Fitzpatrick’s case did not constitute a miscarriage of justice. The Court was urged by Ms Quinlivan Q.C. for Mr Fitzpatrick to direct that compensation be awarded to the HCC client.
Nichola Harte of HCC Lawyers said today;
“ The refusal to pay compensation to Mr Fitzpatrick in circumstances where he was convicted on the sole basis of alleged confession evidence, extracted in the absence of both legal advice and an appropriate adult, constitutes a fundamentally inequitable and irrational decision by the state. The statutory scheme set up to deal with miscarriages of justice in England & Wales and Northern Ireland provides a detailed legislative framework within which these cases fall. On any level it cannot be the case that our client, having been subjected to interview as a juvenille in oppressive circumstances without proper legal advice or the presence of an appropriate adult, does not merit compensation.”
The case adjourned today for a reserved ruling on the appeal.