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Thursday, 5 October, 2000, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Soldier murder conviction quashed
Stephen Restorick
Stephen Restorick: Last soldier killed in the Troubles
A man convicted of murdering the last British soldier killed in Northern Ireland by the IRA, has been cleared on appeal.

Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick was shot by an IRA sniper at a checkpoint in Bessbrook, County Armagh, in February 1997.

Bernard Henry McGinn, 43, from Castleblayney, County Monaghan, who was convicted of the killing, has already been freed under the Good Friday Agreement.

McGinn was also cleared of two other murders - of Lance Bombardier Andrew Garrett and former UDR soldier Gilbert Johnston.

Bernard McGinn
Bernard McGinn: Cleared of Restorick murder
The Court of Appeal in Belfast held that the murder convictions, for which McGinn was given life sentences, must be quashed because he was not properly cautioned before he confessed.

However, the three judges dismissed McGinn's appeals on charges of possessing guns and conspiracy to murder for which he was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.

At McGinn's trial last year, Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell overruled defence submissions and admitted McGinn's verbal statements as evidence.

But in a 48-page reserved judgement, Lord Justice Nicholson held there had been substantial breaches of the Code of Practice relating to cautions and the conduct of interviews.

'Wanted freedom'

He said a caution given to McGinn at the start of each of a long series of interviews related only to his suspected membership of the IRA and being involved in a planned terrorist operation in April, 1997.

The judge said the cautions did not relate to other matters about which McGinn was volunteering information after he told detectives he wanted freedom for the sake of his seven-year-old son Kieran, and asked them to "make me an offer I can't refuse".

McGinn insisted on nothing being written down, said the judge, and officers made notes after he was taken back to his cell.

"He was not cautioned at any time in relation to those matters although he was giving the police information about his inovlement in serious crimes," said the judge.

"Under the terms of the code he should have been cautioned. We consider that the failure to caution McGinn in relation to those matters about which he was volunteering information constitutes a serious breach of the Code."

Lord Justice Nicholson, who heard the appeal with Lord Justice Campbell and Mr Justice Kerr, said it was at least possible that McGinn believed that the admissions he volunteered would not be used against him.

"We also consider that there is a reasonable doubt as to whether he would have made those admissions if, as soon as he embarked upon them, he was cautioned in respect of them and the provisions in relation to the conduct of interviews were observed.

"Had these things occurred, McGinn could have been in no doubt that prosecution for the offences which he was admitting was in prospect, at least.

"In those circumstances, it is, in our view, reasonably possible that he would have refrained from further admissions."

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