CCRC refers the convictions of James Martin and Veronica Ryan to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the convictions of James Martin and Veronica Ryan to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

James Martin and Veronica Ryan (formerly known as Veronica Martin) were convicted together in May 1991 at Belfast Crown Court of the false imprisonment of Joseph Fenton. Mr Martin was also convicted on that date of making property available for terrorism. Mr Martin was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment and Ms Ryan was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.The prosecution case against Mr Martin and Ms Ryan was that they falsely imprisoned Mr Fenton in Belfast between 25th and 26th February 1989. Mr Martin was also charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Joseph Fenton but was acquitted of that offence.

The Commission’s review of these convictions followed the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal’s decision in January 2009 to quash Mr Martin’s and Ms Ryan’s convictions relating to a separate incident (see footnote 1).

The Commission has now carried out a detailed investigation into the convictions relating to Mr Fenton. It has decided to refer the convictions to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal because it considers there is a real possibility that the Court would quash them if a fresh appeal were to be heard.

The nature of the issues leading to the referral means that the Commission cannot dislcose the specific reasons for its decision. The Commission is not able to give applicants or their representatives the specific reasons why these convictions have been referred, but a summary of the Commission’s findings has been provided. The full reasons for the referrals will be provided in a confidential annex to the Court of Appeal and the Public Prosecution Service.

It will be for the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal to make any further decisions on disclosure in relation to the appeal proceedings subsequent to referral by the Commission.

Mr Martin and Ms Ryan are legally represented by Mr Kevin Winters of Kevin R. Winters & Co. Solicitors, 46 Castle Street, Belfast. Tel: 02890 241888.

This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 0121 232 0906.

Footnote 1 

On the same date in May 1991 Mr Martin and Ms Ryan were also convicted, with others, of a separate count of false imprisonment. Mr Martin was also convicted of another count of making property available for terrorism. Those convictions, relating to an incident involving Alexander Lynch, were the subject of an earlier Commission investigation that led to the referral of the defendants’ convictions to the Court in 2008. Those convictions were quashed by the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal on 9th January 2009.

Notes to Editors

The Criminal Cases Review Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.

There currently nine Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.The Commission receives around 1,000 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Our current rates of referral are around 4%, which means around one in 25 of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.

The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.