Garda killer set for release following remission ruling

July 22, 2013

A man convicted for his part in the murder of a Garda almost 30 years ago looks set for imminent release from Portlaoise jail after winning the right to seek remission on his sentence.

Noel Callan (50) from Culloville, Castleblayney was convicted, along with Crossmaglen man Michael McHugh, of the capital murder of Sergeant Patrick Morrissey in June 1985.  The father-of-two was shot when he pursued the raiders following an armed robbery at an employment exchange in Ardee, Co. Louth.

Following their trial both men were sentenced to be hanged however this was later commuted to 40 years penal servitude.  They were the last two men to be sentenced to death in Ireland.

Callan and McHugh have previously failed in separate attempts to force the Irish government to free them under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

On Thursday the Republic’s Supreme Court ruled that Callan could apply for remission for good behaviour.  The decision means he will be freed by 2016 at the latest, but the court also ruled he is eligible for higher remission of one third, with the effect he could be freed immediately.

He has been in jail for just over 28 years.

Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, with whom the other judges agreed, described as “nonsense” and “breath-taking in their technicality” various contradictory arguments put forward by the State to support its claims Callan was not entitled to remission. The court’s attitude to some of the arguments advanced was one of “grave distaste”, he added.

The verdict may now pave the way for his co-accused Michael McHugh to seek similar remission on his sentence.