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Commission refers the terrorism related case of Michael Devine to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal

The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the case of Michael Devine to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

Mr Devine[1] was convicted in Belfast Crown Court in February 1981 of ten offences including attempted murder, firearms offences, conspiracy to pervert the course of public justice, and membership of a proscribed organisation. He pleaded not guilty at trial but was convicted and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment.

Later that year Mr Devine began appeal proceedings but abandoned the appeal before the case was heard. He applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission in 2014.

Having reviewed the case in detail, the Commission has decided to refer Mr Devine’s case for appeal because it considers that there is a real possibility that the Court will quash the conviction.

The referral is based on the cumulative weight of a number of new
factors including:

  • The absence of modern standards of fairness within the police interview process.
  • The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal’s decision in R v Paul Kelly: in which the Court quashed the conviction of Mr Devine’s co-defendant.
  • The Northern Ireland Court of Appeal’s decision in the CCRC referral case of R v Patrick Livingstone which casts doubt on the credibility of at least two officers connected with Mr Devine’s case.
  • New expert evidence from a forensic linguist expressing some concerns about disputed statements.
  • Evidence potentially undermining the credibility of the senior interviewing officer (who also recorded the disputed statements).
  • Confidential material that is contained within a separate Annex to CCRC Statement of Reasons that can only be provided to the Court of Appeal and Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr Devine has been represented in his application to the CCRC by John J Rice & Co (Solicitors), Pearl Assurance House, 2 Donegall Square East, Belfast, BT1 5HB.

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

[1] The Michael Devine who is the subject of this CCRC referral is not the Michael Devine who took part in, and died as a result of, the hunger strike in the Maze Prison in 1981.

Notes for editors

  1. The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently 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.
  2. There are currently seven 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.
  3. The Commission usually receives around 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year.  Typically, around 3.5%, or one in 29, of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
  4. 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”.
  5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
  6. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate