Northern Ireland

Man jailed for storing gun used in Lyra McKee killing settles legal action over bar on compassionate release

Niall Sheerin was denied temporary release to visit his seriously ill father

Lyra McKee was shot dead while observing a riot in Derry in 2019
Lyra McKee (Family handout/PA)

A man jailed for storing the gun used to kill journalist Lyra McKee has settled legal action over being denied compassionate temporary release to visit his seriously ill father.

Niall Sheerin, 31, was allowed out of Maghaberry Prison for the first time on Tuesday to go to the family home in Derry after a resolution was reached in his High Court challenge.

Sheerin, from Tyrconnell Street in the city, is currently serving a seven-year sentence imposed for possession of a Hammerli X-Esse .22 pistol between September 2018 and June 2020.

The gun was found wrapped in plastic bags and buried in a field in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry four years ago.

Ballistics tests linked it to five shootings across Derry, including the killing of 29-year-old Ms McKee.

The journalist was shot dead when a gunman opened fire as she observed rioting in the city’s Creggan estate in April 2019.

Three other men are currently on trial charged with her murder.

Sheerin was not sentenced in connection with Ms McKee’s killing because the prosecution could not establish he knew about the weapon’s specific history.

He issued judicial review proceedings against the Northern Ireland Prison Service after being refused compassionate temporary release to visit his father.

It was claimed that the decision was unlawful, irrational and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

But following legal arguments at the High Court, Mr Justice Rooney was informed on Tuesday that a resolution had been reached in the challenge.

Sheerin secured temporary release for a period of hours under strict conditions.

He must be accompanied at all times and travel directly to his father’s home, cannot use a mobile phone, engage in social media or contact any media organisations.

The terms also include a prohibition on him attending any event displaying paramilitary trappings or promoting a political cause.

Outside court his legal representative, Sean Dunlea of Phoenix Law, said: “We welcome the settlement of this matter today for Mr Sheerin to be with his family at this difficult time.

“The result is not only important for Mr Sheerin and his family, but also important for the prison population as a whole.”

Mr Dunlea added: “Prison law is an important area of law that is often neglected, we welcome the sensible decision of the prison to agree to our case and to allow release.”