Man’s 1981 terrorism conviction ruled unsafe by Court of Appeal

The conviction of a Belfast man for terrorism offences 40 years ago has been quashed by the Court of Appeal after it was found to be unsafe.

Michael Devine was charged with attempted murder as well as firearms and terrorism offences.

He pleaded not guilty at trial in 1981 but was convicted and sentenced to 20 years at the former Maze Prison on the outskirts of Lisburn, Co Antrim.

The conviction was recently referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

In a judgment delivered on Thursday morning, the reasons for quashing the conviction were set out.

The panel was made up of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Treacy and Lord Justice McCloskey.

Lord Justice McCloskey told the court the trial judge “failed to engage with evidence which clearly bore on his assessment of the veracity of the testament” of two police officers and the evidence of Mr Devine.

Other areas of concern included “direct conflicts” between accounts given by an eyewitness and the appellant, and the professional conduct of a detective sergeant.

Lord Justice McCloskey told the court: “To summarise, there are four issues of substance which cumulatively generates irresistible unease about the safety of the appellant’s convictions.

“Our clear conclusion is that the convictions of Mr Devine must be regarded as unsafe. It follows that the appeal is allowed.”