Man convicted in 1973 Derry bomb case as teenager fails to clear name

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A man convicted of a bomb incident in Derry more than 40 years ago has lost a legal battle to clear his name.

Senior judges rejected Myles O’Hagan’s appeal after the case was referred to them by a body that examines potential miscarriages of justice.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan ruled that issues around the statement of admission made as a teenager did not undermine the safety of the guilty verdict.

O’Hagan, 57, was convicted of causing an explosion that occurred outside an optician’s shop in Derry on July 20, 1973.

The Court of Appeal heard two youths walked into the premises on Queen Street and left a cardboard box on the floor.

One of them told staff: “There’s a bomb, you have 10 minutes to get out.”

An employee then carried the box outside, placing it in an alleyway where it exploded.

Military experts who examined the scene estimated that a 30lbs device was involved.

O’Hagan, then aged 15, was arrested after soldiers carried out searches of flats in the Bogside area in November that year.

He was handed over to the RUC and interviewed a number of times – the first two of which took place without the presence of a solicitor or appropriate adult.

In the second interview he confessed to being responsible for placing the bomb and referred to an associate who was also convicted of the same offence.

During a third interview he signed a detailed confession countersigned by his then present father.

His case was referred back to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission to decide if the conviction was safe.

O’Hagan told the CCRC he had been threatened that if he did not co-operate with the police he would be returned to the Army who wanted him back.

He also claimed interviewing officers began writing out a statement answering questions as though they were him.

It was further alleged that he was encouraged by his father to sign the statement, and forbidden from speaking to him unless police were present.

Defence lawyers argued that the circumstances surrounding the taking of the statements, inconsistencies with the account of a co-accused, and omissions in trial evidence combined to throw the safety of the conviction into doubt.

They contended that a series of small factors in isolation may be dismissed as causing no real concern, but when taken together led to a significant sense of unease.

However, Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Gillen and Weatherup, dismissed all grounds of challenge.

He said: “We do not consider that these matters, either individually or cumulatively with the other matters raised, create any sense of unease about the reliability of the admissions and the safety of the verdict.”