Northern Ireland

Legal battle over denying Gerry Adams compensation for miscarriage of justice rendered academic

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (Liam McBurney/PA)

A legal battle over denying Gerry Adams compensation for a miscarriage of justice has been rendered academic, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The Department of Justice had been contesting a finding that the former Sinn Féin President was unlawfully refused a pay-out after his historic convictions for trying to escape from prison were overturned.

But senior judges dismissed an application to have the appeal put on hold pending the outcome of challenges to the UK Government’s Troubles Legacy Act.

Lady Chief Justice Dame Siobhan Keegan stressed that the new legislation has imposed a block on Mr Adams receiving any compensation.

She said: “We decline to grant the indeterminate stay. We consider that this appeal is academic.”

Mr Adams had been found guilty of two attempts to escape from lawful custody while being held without trial at the Maze Prison - then known as Long Kesh internment camp - in 1973 and 1974.

However, in 2020 the Supreme Court quashed both convictions after it emerged that clearance for his initial detention was invalid.

The Interim Custody Order (ICO) signed by a junior minister should instead have been personally authorised by the Northern Ireland Secretary at the time, William Whitelaw.

In December 2021 the department refused Mr Adams’ application for compensation as a victim of a miscarriage of justice.

His lawyers successfully challenged that decision based on the findings made by the Supreme Court - that the ICO was legally defective.

Last year the High Court quashed the decision to deny a pay-out and ordered reconsideration of the veteran republican’s application.

Despite lodging an appeal against that ruling, the department sought to have the case put on hold until separate legal action against the controversial Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Act is dealt with.

It was suggested that if the new legislation is ultimately declared unlawful then the current prohibition on any compensation could be lifted.

But Dame Siobhan insisted judges must apply the law as it stands at that point in time.

“Mr Adams is precluded from obtaining compensation for a miscarriage of justice,” she stressed.

If the law changes he can reignite his application for a payment and the department can reconsider the case, the Lady Chief Justice observed.

Dismissing the appeal, she decided it was not in the public interest to hear the case.

She added: “We do so without any adjudication on the merits of the appeal arguments that have been raised.”