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Son of man whose convictions were quashed after his death loses compensation bid

The high court in Belfast

THE son of a west Belfast man whose convictions for terrorist offences were quashed after his death has lost a High Court challenge to being denied compensation.

Conor McNally was seeking to judicially review the Department of Justice's decision to refuse a pay-out after the guilty verdict against his father Stephen McCaul was ruled unsafe.

But a judge dismissed his challenge because it failed to meet the legal test for financial redress to those found to have suffered a miscarriage of justice.

In 1979 Mr McCaul, then aged just 16, was sentenced to three years detention for offences linked to two bus hijackings and two burglaries where shotguns were stolen.

At his trial the case against him had centred on alleged admissions made during police interviews.

Defence lawyers argued those confessions should not have been admitted because they were obtained in breach of the Judges' Rules.

Mr McCaul was only 15 when questioned, had a mental age of a seven-year-old, and could not read or write, they stressed.

His family continued the fight to clear his name after his death in 1995.

The convictions were quashed at the Court of Appeal in 2012. Doubts over how the admissions were obtained in the absence of a solicitor rendered the guilty verdict unsafe.

However, in 2015 the department refused Mr McNally's application for compensation on behalf of his father's estate.

Officials denied any pay-out because they were not satisfied the convictions were quashed on the ground that a new or newly discovered fact showed, beyond reasonable doubt, a miscarriage of justice.

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