Troubles conviction referred to Court of Appeal

The conviction of a man during the Troubles has been sent to Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeal for review.

Michael Devine was convicted in 1981 of attempted murder, and firearms and terrorism offences.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) referred the case back to a Belfast court over concerns about the absence of modern standards of fairness in the police interview process.

A CCRC statement said: “Having reviewed the case in detail, the commission has decided to refer Mr Devine’s case for appeal because it considers that there is a real possibility that the court will quash the conviction.”

He pleaded not guilty at trial but was convicted and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment which he served at the Maze.

Mr Devine said: “I am very pleased.

“I am an optimistic person and have always believed that the truth about the nature of the evidence used to convict me in 1981 would eventually be brought to light.”

He said returning to court after almost 40 years would be an anxious time but he remained hopeful.

“At the end of the day all I really wanted was to have a fair hearing of the evidence and the facts, and it is my belief that the information uncovered and discovered by the CCRC will go some way to support that.”

The referral was based on the cumulative weight of a number of new factors including other Court of Appeal decisions, including one that “casts doubt on the credibility of at least two officers connected with Mr Devine’s case”, the CCRC said.

It also considered new evidence from a forensic linguist expressing concerns about disputed statements and evidence potentially undermining the credibility of the senior interviewing officer.

Mr Devine’s solicitor Joe Rice said: “There was always unease about the nature of the evidence that led to Michael’s conviction.

“This is now the first time our Court of Appeal will have the opportunity to examine the totality of the evidence in Michael’s case.”