Irish Examiner

Finucane's murderer expects freedom by May

1 March 2005

The killer of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane expects to be freed by May, it emerged tonight.

Life Sentence Review Commissioners in Northern Ireland are due to issue a ruling on loyalist paramilitary assassin Ken Barrett’s case within days.

The Ulster Defence Association gunman feared he may not qualify for the Good Friday Agreement's early release clause because he was serving his 22-year jail sentence outside Northern Ireland.

But following his return to solitary confinement at Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, Co Antrim last week, Barrett’s lawyer tonight insisted no further legal barriers remained.

Joe Rice said: “We will be getting a preliminary indication as to his early release date from the Sentence Review Commissioners by the end of the week.

“We can’t see any legal impediment to Mr Barrett’s case failing when the terms of the criteria was set out under the legislation.

“We would expect a release date by the end of May.”

Mr Finucane was hit with bullets in front of his wife and children when a gunman burst into their north Belfast home in February 1989.

Barrett was jailed last September after pleading guilty to the murder that has been plagued by allegations of police and military collaboration.

Former Scotland Yard chief Sir John Steven’s exhaustive probe into the claims established levels of security force collusion.

It had been thought Barrett, 42, may have scuppered his chances of a swift return to freedom when he was switched to Belmarsh Prison near London amid fears his life was in danger from former associates who regarded him as an informer.

The three commissioners have also consulted Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy before they deliver their verdict.

The Finucane family refused to comment on the case, although it is believed they will not contest Barrett’s eligibility under the Good Friday arrangements.

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