Failure to revoke Portadown loyalist murderer’s licence was ‘unlawful and unreasonable’, court told

The failure to revoke a loyalist killer’s license to send a threatening letter to the daughter of one of his victims was unlawful and unreasonable, the Supreme Court has heard.

The judge was told Garfield Beattie acted “outrageously” in attacking Denise Mullen in correspondence allegedly from the same terrorist organization behind her father’s murder.

Ms Mullen and the son of another man who was murdered by the 66-year-old were challenging a decision not to refer his case to the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland (PCNI).

Beattie, from Moss Road, Portadown, was serving 16 years behind bars to a life sentence for three murders committed by the so-called Glenanne gang, a notorious loyalist entity operating at the height of the riots.

His victims included Denis Mullen, who was shot dead at his home near Moy, Co Tyrone, in 1975, and Patrick McNeice, who was shot dead outside his home in Co Armagh a year later.

He was handed a further 17-month sentence in December last year after being found guilty of attempting to intimidate Mr Mullen’s daughter Denise.

He had sent her a letter signed by the East Tyrone Ulster Volunteer Force.

Ms Mullen and Patrick McNeice’s son John then pushed for Beattie’s life sentence to be revoked.

But earlier this year, the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Panel (MARAP) decided against ordering its recall.

The threshold for initiating his revocation was deemed not to have been reached.

Lawyers for the two bereaved allege the Department made a mistake by not referring Beattie’s case to the Parole Board to assess the risk he posed to the public.

Both are seeking an order overturning the decision made by MARAP.

Ms Mullen’s attorney, Desmond Fahy KC, described the circumstances as “gross and disturbing”.

He told the court: “The context and circumstances confronting the court in relation to Beattie’s conduct could hardly be more outrageous.

“They depict the targeting and threatening of a daughter of a man he murdered on behalf of the same terrorist organization responsible for the murder, the UVF.”

Mr Fahy insisted the commissioners, a court-appointed body with significant expertise, should have carried out an audit.

“The essence of the complainant’s case is that the respondent’s failure to refer the case to the PCNI was unlawful and unreasonable,” he added.

“The impact of this failure became more severe and correspondingly less lasting in 2021 and 2022.”

Tony McGleenan KC, answering for the Department, argued that safeguards within the life sentence order (Northern Ireland) are employed by the relevant authorities at every stage of the process.

“This was a very thorough review of all the risk issues posed by this particular offender,” he added.

According to Mr McGleenan, both Ms Mullen and Mr McNeice were offered the opportunity to make written statements during a 14-session process to determine whether the risk posed by Beattie could be managed.

“In any case, this is not an irrational decision,” said the lawyer.

When Beattie was released last month, Mr McGleenan insisted: “The perpetrator did not engage in risky behavior again.”

Pending the verdict, Mr Justice Colton promised to rule on the challenge as soon as possible. Failure to revoke Portadown loyalist murderer’s licence was ‘unlawful and unreasonable’, court told

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