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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 September, 2004, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Finucane killer gets 22 years
Ken Barrett was secretly filmed by BBC Panorama
Ken Barrett was secretly filmed by BBC Panorama
A loyalist who confessed in court to murdering Catholic solicitor Pat Finucane has been sentenced to 22 years imprisonment.

Ken Barrett admitted the killing of Mr Finucane in the kitchen of his family home in north Belfast in February 1989.

However, the 41-year-old could be freed within months under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Barrett entered the guilty plea at the beginning of his trial in the Crown Court in Belfast on Monday, having denied the murder at previous hearings.

He was the first person to be charged with the solicitor's murder.

I have searched in vain for any semblance of genuine remorse in your various accounts of your participation in this crime contained in the court papers and have found, on the contrary, only boastful expressions of self satisfaction
Mr Justice Weir

Mr Justice Weir acknowledged he could be freed much sooner.

He described the "cruel and callous" murder as a "terrorist killing carefully planned and mercilessly executed".

The judge said he was "not unaware" that Barrett could apply for early release under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement but this was "entirely outside the control of the Criminal Courts".

However, he said his decision concerning a minimum term "must of necessity be made without reference to how, if at all" the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement would affect his release date.

He added: "I have no doubt that an object of this brutal crime was to intimidate and thereby deter other members of the legal profession from carrying out their duty to represent without fear or favour all those, including terrorists such as you, who come to them for professional advice and assistance.

"It is greatly to the credit of the profession that it has not allowed itself to be intimidated or deterred by this or other outrages carried out for the same purpose."

'Originally confessed'

Mr Justice Weir said he regretted he could find very few mitigating factors other than Barrett's late guilty plea.

However, he added: "I have searched in vain for any semblance of genuine remorse in your various accounts of your participation in this crime contained in the court papers and have found, on the contrary, only boastful expressions of self satisfaction."

Barrett was given concurrent jail terms of between five and 20 years for his 11 other paramilitary crimes.

Former Detective Sergeant Johnston Brown, whom Barrett originally confessed the killing to in 1991, said the sentence was "a good day for the public of Northern Ireland".

However, he said it "should have happened 15 years ago".
Ken Barrett
Ken Barrett was secretly filmed by BBC Panorama

"I have got a life sentence because this man told me and Trevor McIlwrath (his police colleague) that if this ever went wrong for him, that if he ever ended up in jail, that he would come after us and put two in our face," said Mr Brown.

The Finucane family said they were not particularly interested in convictions, and that Barrett's guilty plea served to conceal the truth that could only emerge at a public inquiry.

"It is outrageous that the government is continuing its pretence that our concerns and that of the public can be satisfied by prosecutions and trials," they added.

SDLP justice spokesman Alban Maginness said it was "interesting" that Mr Barrett had pleaded guilty to membership of the UFF rather than the UDA.

"This legal loophole may permit him to enjoy the benefit of the early release scheme, which on the face of it does not apply to him, as the UDA ceasefire is not officially recognised," he said.

Mr Finucane, 39, was shot dead by the loyalist Ulster Defence Association.

The killing was one of the most controversial of the 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, mainly because of the allegations of collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and members of the security forces.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Conor Macauley reports
"The Finucane family said Barrett's guilty plea only concealed the truth"



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