Duffy case set for the supreme court

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A high profile republican accused of the Real IRA murder of two soldiers is to go before the UK’s highest court in a legal challenge over his period of pre-charge detention.

Senior judges in Belfast agreed on Friday to certify a question for the Supreme Court to consider in the case of Colin Duffy and three others who cannot be identified.

Duffy, 43, from Lurgan, is due to stand trial for the killings of Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, outside an Antrim army barracks in March 2009.

Earlier this year, he and other suspects held over the shootings failed to win a court declaration that that the period they spent in detention contravened human rights laws.

Under the Terrorism Act 2000 they could be kept in custody for up to 28 days before either being formally accused or released.

Lawyers for the men claimed that relevant sections of the legislation were incompatible with their right to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights.

It was argued that a judge who hears applications for extended custody was not a competent judicial authority because issues of bail cannot be considered.

The Divisional Court rejected claims that the Act meant a person could be detained for up to 28 days without any consideration of the proportionality or justification for such detention.

It stated that there is a continuing need to demonstrate reasonable suspicion.

However, a three judge panel headed by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has now agreed to certify questions for the Supreme Court to consider on a point of law of general public importance.

One of them is whether the absence of a power to allow for conditional release on bail renders the scheme for extension of the detention incompatible with the European Convention.

The move has been seen as strengthening the case for Duffy and the other three when their lawyers petition the Supreme Court.

Paul Pierce, of Kevin R Winters solicitors, who represents two of them, said: “These are concerns that need to be addressed in light of the powers available to detain someone without the possibility of release on bail.

“Clearly these are issues that need to be determined by the Supreme Court.”