A Sinn Fein MLA and a local journalist who had their murder convictions quashed have won the right to claim compensation for the time they spent in prison.
Raymond McCartney and former Derry Journal reporter Eamonn MacDermott were initially denied compensation at the Court of Appeal.
However, they took their case to the highest court in the United Kingdom, the Supreme Court, and today five of the nine judges on the panel found in the men’s favour to claim compensation.
The other four judges ruled that the case should go back to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State.
In 1979, Mr McCartney was convicted by a diplock judge of the murder of Geoffrey Agate and Special Branch Detective Patrick McNulty and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
He served seventeen years in prison.
Mr MacDermott was also convicted of the murder of Dectective Mc Nulty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
He served over fifteen years in jail.
Their convictions were quashed in 2007 after their case was referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Both men then applied for the right to claim compensation because they were victims of a miscarriage of justice.
Today, Lord Phillips of the Supreme Court found that Mr McCartney and Mr MacDermott “are entitled to compensation.”
He said the newly discovered facts in their case “so undermine the evidence against them that no conviction could possibly be based upon it. There can be no reasonable doubt of this.”
A second Supreme Court Judge, Lord Kerr agreed and went a step further by stating he was “satisfied, on the facts as they are now known” that Mr McCartney and Mr MacDermott “ought not to have been prosecuted.”
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ shortly after the judgement was handed down, Mr MacDermott said compensation can’t give him back the years he lost in prison. However, he added “it is nice to get recognition that what they did was wrong.”
“After our conviction was quashed and our claim for compensation was denied, the attitude we got was that the time we
spent in prison didn’t matter. There was always this implication that you are not really innocent.”
“This ruling is a massive vindication. It is quite explicit by saying we should never have been prosecuted and that we should be compensated.”