01 December 2005

Finucane killer calls for fair deal

Belfast Telegraph

By Chris Thornton
30 November 2005

The killer of solicitor Pat Finucane appealed today for equal treatment under the law after the Government got his early release hearing delayed.

Ken Barrett, who admitted last year that he carried out the 1989 murder, questioned why his application for freedom has been put back until next year at the Government's request.

The Government asked for the delay, in part because it says police only recently revealed that secret intelligence may have to be used in the case against Barrett's release.

Barrett told the Belfast Telegraph that he is seeking the same treatment as hundreds of other prisoners who qualified for early release.

"All I can do is wonder why my application for early release has taken so much longer than anyone else's," he said. "And why it has been put back yet again."

Barrett was sentenced to life last year after pleading guilty to the murder, which is meant to be the subject of an as yet unscheduled public inquiry.

He is currently held on 24-hour lock-up in Maghaberry Prison.

Because the murder was committed before the Good Friday Agreement was reached, Barrett qualifies for early release.

He initially applied after his conviction in September 2004, but was rejected because he was serving his sentence in an English prison.

He returned to Magha- berry and re-applied. But the Government has objected on the grounds that he could be a danger to society and that he could become re-involved with the UDA.

The Sentence Review Commission, which will ultimately decide on the release, scheduled a hearing in Barrett's case for December 9.

But the Prison Service, acting on behalf of Secretary of State Peter Hain, asked for a delay earlier this month.

They claimed they had "just been advised" that secret intelligence could form part of the case against Barrett. If intelligence is used, it would require a special process to screen the information from Barrett and his legal team.

The Prison Service also said the hearing would take longer than the one day scheduled.

Barrett's solicitor, Joe Rice, accused the authorities of "dragging their heels".

Government lawyers and Barrett's team will now attend a preliminary hearing next month, at which time his new hearing will be scheduled.

The Sentence Review Commission has instructed the Government to be ready "as early as possible in the New Year".

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