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Halt to Hamill case quashed

Published 11/03/2014




HIGH Court judges have quashed a decision to halt criminal proceedings against two men and a woman in connection with the Robert Hamill murder.

Conspiracy to pervert the course of justice charges faced by the trio, who include a former RUC officer and his wife, will now be reinstated. The outcome follows a legal challenge by the Public Prosecution Service.

Mr Hamill was attacked and beaten to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown, Co Armagh in 1997. He never regained consciousness, dying in hospital 12 days later.

RUC officers in the area at the time have been accused of failing to intervene in the assault.

One of those in a Land Rover at the scene was Robert Cecil Atkinson.

The 59-year-old and his wife Eleanor Atkinson, with an address at Brownstown Road, Portadown, had both been accused of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in connection with the investigation into the killing. Similar allegations were made against another man, Kenneth Hanvey (62) of Derryanvil Road in the town.

All three defendants denied the claims against them.

In July last year District Judge Mervyn Bates stayed their cases on an abuse of process. He ruled that the evidence from a woman who was the central witness was so unreliable that a jury could not convict on it. His verdict led to the prosecution service seeking a judicial review.

In court counsel for the PPS, Tony McGleenan QC, argued that there was no abuse of process.

Following a brief hearing a panel of three High Court judges, headed by the Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, confirmed that the decision to stay the prosecution was being quashed.

The case will now be remitted back for hearing in front of a different district judge.

* CHARGES: Robert Atkinson, top, Eleanor Atkinson, middle, and Kenneth Hanvey, bottom, are to face charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in connection with murder of Robert Hamill, left, in 1997 in Portadown after a stay on the prosecution was quashed by the High Court yesterday