Derry man’s conviction ‘not safe’

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A Derry republican whose conviction for a Troubles-related offence more than 30 years ago was ruled unsafe in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday has said he is “absolutely delighted” by the move.

Peter McDonald was 16 years-old when he was arrested in December 1976 following an incident in which two shots were fired at British army land rover in Creggan.

During police interviews, which were conducted without a solicitor present, he confessed to membership Na Fianna Éireann, and claimed he had been involved in an attempt to lure troops to an ambush in Creggan, despite no such incident taking place. He also went on to make two further statements. As no such ambush had been planned, the Court of Appeal held that the admission had been invented.

In the Court of Appeal judgement, Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justices Higgins and Girvin, said they were “left with a sense of unease about the reliability” of Mr McDonald’s statements.

Mr McDonald said the conviction had a major impact on his life. “For 36 years I have had this conviction hanging over me. That was a turning point in my life. It plagued me for years since then. I missed education and employment opportunities because of it,” he said.

Mr McDonald also said the fact that he has successfully challenged his conviction shows how times have changed.

His solicitor, Paddy MacDermott, said his client would now be seeking compensation. Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney also welcomed the decision, describing it as “yet another blow to the discredited Diplock system.”