Northern Ireland news

Michael Stone launches Supreme Court challenge to get parole ruling overturned

Convicted killer Michael Stone was restrained by security staff at Parliament Buildings in 2006. Picture by Mal McCann

MILLTOWN Cemetery bomber Michael Stone is attempting to go to the Supreme Court in a bid to overturn a ruling that he must remain in jail until 2024.

The loyalist killer has instructed his lawyers to seek permission to appeal the verdict that the six years he spent on licence should not count towards his minimum term of imprisonment.

Earlier this week, judges at the High Court in Belfast held that the Department of Justice had wrongly determined Stone is now eligible for possible release on parole.

Their finding came in a legal challenge mounted by the sister of one of Stone's victims.

Deborah McGuinness's brother, Thomas McErlean, was among three mourners murdered in a grenade attack on an IRA funeral at Milltown in west Belfast in March 1988.

Deborah McGuinness, who took the case, celebrates the court's ruling over the time Stone must spend behind bars. Picture by Hugh Russell.

Stone (63) was also the gunman in three separate killings in the 1980s.

He was freed in 2000 under the Good Friday Agreement but was returned to jail six years later after trying to enter Stormont, armed with explosives, knives and an axe, in an attempt to murder Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.

He denied trying to kill the politicians and said it was an act of performance art.

In 2013, he was told that he must serve the remainder of a 30-year sentence imposed for waging a sectarian murder campaign.

The ex-UDA man's case had been referred to Parole Commissioners on the basis that he has now served that minimum term.

Loyalist killer Michael Stone firing at mourners in Milltown cemetery in March 1988. Picture by Pacemaker

However, Ms McGuinness claimed the Department unlawfully included the six years he spent out on licence before the attack on Stormont.

The High Court backed Ms McGuinness's case.

Mr Justice McCloskey said the earliest date Stone might be released on parole licence will be around July 2024.

Returning to court today the prisoner's lawyers confirmed he is seeking leave to mount an appeal to the Supreme Court in London.

He can only get the required permission if it is established that the challenge raises a point of law of general public importance.

Adjourning the application, Mr Justice McCloskey asked the Department of Justice to disclose how many other parole cases could be affected by the ruling.

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