Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

McHugh’s early release appeal dismissed

A Crossmaglen man who has spent thirty years in jail for the murder of a Garda sergeant has lost a High Court action to be immediately released from prison.

Michael McHugh from Clonalig, along with his co-accused Noel Callan from Castleblayney, was convicted in December 1985 of the murder of Sgt Patrick Morrissey following an armed robbery at Ardee Labour Exchange in June of that year.

McHugh was sentenced to death for the murder, before the then President Patrick Hillery commuted the sentence to one of 40 years penal servitude, a week before the execution was scheduled to be carried out.

Due for release next month, McHugh brought proceedings against the Governor of the Prison, the Minister for Justice, the Irish Prison Service and the DPP, claiming when the 25 per cent remission generally granted to incarcerated persons is taken into account, he is due for release after 30 years, which he says he has served.

He argued that the five months he spent in custody, between July 3rd and December 3rd 1985, before his trial has not been taken into account and therefore he should qualify for immediate release.

However, in his judgment Mr Justice Paul McDermott dismissed McHugh’s case stating under the separation of powers, the court could not compel the Minister for Justice to further commute or remit the sentence. In this case the commutation of McHugh’s sentence was wholly separate from the judicial process.