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Relatives of two men murdered by loyalist Garfield Beattie in legal action over failure to consider jail return

Convicted loyalist killer Garfield Beattie. Picture by Hugh Russell.

THE public risk posed by a convicted loyalist killer is at the centre of legal action over an alleged failure to initiate his potential return to jail, the High Court heard yesterday.

Relatives of two men murdered by Garfield Beattie have issued proceedings amid new claims that he threatened to kill one victim's daughter.

They are challenging the Department of Justice for not referring the 65-year-old's case to the Parole Commissioners to consider revoking his licence.

Beattie served 16 years behind bars for his part in three murders carried out by the Glenanne Gang, a notorious loyalist unit who operated in Northern Ireland during the 1970s.

His victims included Denis Mullen, gunned down at his home near Moy, Co Tyrone in 1975, and Patrick McNeice, who was shot dead outside his Co Armagh home a year later.

In October last year Beattie was reportedly arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill Mr Mullen's daughter Denise.

The incident relates to allegations she received a letter signed by the East Tyrone Ulster Volunteer Force.

Judicial review proceedings have now been lodged on behalf of both Ms Mullen and Patrick McNeice's son John.

Both of the bereaved contend that the Department acted unlawfully and unreasonably in deciding not to take steps towards recalling the convicted murderer's life sentence.

Barrister Stephen Toal, representing John McNeice, told the court: "This challenge focuses on the risk posed by Mr Beattie."

He claimed admissions about sending the letter were made to a journalist.

Lawyers for Ms Mullen argued that her case should also advance, pointing out that the alleged threat was directed at her.

During the hearing it was confirmed that Beattie is facing fresh criminal charges, with a magistrates' court hearing scheduled for early next month.

Counsel representing the Department suggested those proceedings should be

dealt with first.

Citing delay in mounting the legal challenge, he added: "Both applicants

are raising the threat and risk of harm to the public.

"One would have anticipated they would have moved with a great deal more

haste."

Following submissions Mr Justice Colton confirmed the application for leave

to seek a judicial review will be heard on October 20. ends

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