Page last updated at 12:31 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Belfast bomb accused wins court appeal

Christy Walsh criticised the prosecution handling of his case

A man wrongly jailed for possessing explosives has had his conviction quashed at the Court of Appeal.

Following an unprecedented third appeal, senior judges ruled that the guilty verdict against Christy Walsh, 46, now of Jordanstown, was unsafe.

He served a 14-year prison term for allegedly having a coffee jar bomb when stopped by soldiers at Lenadoon in west Belfast in 1991.

His lawyer said Mr Walsh now planned to seek compensation.

Although Mr Walsh had always protested his innocence, his previous appeals in 1994 and 2002 failed.

In his third appeal, his legal team advanced a number of grounds on which they claimed the conviction should be quashed.

These included the non-disclosure of information about an alleged senior IRA man arrested in the area on the same day as him. It was argued this person could have been responsible for the device.

The court heard that there were also fresh doubts over the validity of fingerprint forensic evidence due to evidence gathering techniques from the time. Doubt was also cast over the evidence provided by a former soldier.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said this cast doubt over the safety of the conviction, and noting that Mr Walsh had been a man of previously good character, allowed the appeal.

Mr Walsh criticised the prosecution handling of his case.

Drawing comparisons with other high-profile cases, he said: "Like the Thomas Devlin family, like the Robert Hamill family, the prosecution have obstructed and prevented me from getting justice before now.

Compensation

"It is generally accepted that I won this case a long time ago. This morning was just a formality in getting it officially sanctioned."

Walsh's lawyer, Kevin Winters, described it as the end of a very long road for Mr Walsh, which involved representing himself at one stage.

"He will be forever indebted to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for referring his case back to the court when all seemed lost," the solicitor said.

Mr Winters criticised the "unacceptably long time" Mr Walsh had waited for justice.

"Prosecuting authorities missed a number of chances many years ago to remedy what has long since amounted to a serious miscarriage of justice.

"To that end Mr Walsh will now be seeking compensation for the 14 years he spent in jail for a crime he did not commit.

"There are still unresolved issues of a very sensitive nature in this case and we now intend to bring these to the attention of the Northern Ireland Office."



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