Petition calls on Criminal Cases Review Commission to reopen case of Brendan Mc Conville and John-Paul Wootton , convicted of the murder of a police officer in 2009.
The wife and family of Brendan Mc Conville have collected almost 3,500 signatures in an online petition launched last November that calls on the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC - independent investigative body for miscarriages of justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) to reopen the case of the Craigavon Two - Brendan Mc Conville and John-Paul Wootton.
The Mc Conville family started this petition to highlight the case of the Craigavon Two and the “serious concerns” they have about the “safety of these convictions”. They want to demonstrate to the CCRC that there is public support for this case and from “people around the world, from all walks of life”. The Mc Conville’s believe they have the support of the public and they are “hoping the CCRC will not overlook thousands of people who all have concerns about this case.”
Both Mc Conville and Wootton have been held in the controversial Maghaberry Prison (15 miles south-west of Belfast) since March 2009 and were convicted in March 2012 of the murder of PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) Constable Stephen Carroll on 9 March 2009. The Mc Conville and Wootton families and supporters of their respective justice campaign teams – as well as the two men themselves – maintain their innocence and maintain that their conviction is a miscarriage of justice.
When their case failed in its appeal to the High Court in Belfast in 2014 and the Supreme Court in London later refused them permission to appeal in 2015, the campaign appeared to have gone as far as it could and as if both men would remain behind bars.
However, their case was submitted to the CCRC in late 2016 and communication about their case and potential meetings between Mc Conville’s legal team and the CCRC were raised in September 2017. While no such meetings have been raised with Wootton’s legal team it does give the campaign teams cause for renewed optimism.
In September last year Mc Conville’s legal team, KRW Law, described the proposed meetings with the CCRC as “a very significant development”. Solicitor Darragh Mackin explained that Mc Conville’s case was submitted to the CCRC as KRW Law have “real serious concerns as to the safety of the conviction” and they “believe that there are a number of issues that remain effectively unaddressed”. Following failed appeals the law firm felt they “had to pursue the avenue via the CCRC”.
At that time also, Justin Hawkins of the CCRC stated that the CCRC meet applicants when they think there is a need to do so yet they do not always think there is a need to do so. They meet if they think it is “worthwhile and necessary to progress the case” yet that is not an indication of any kind of outcome. Recently, Hawkins mentioned that this case is still currently "under review".
The CCRC and the legal representatives of Mc Conville have been in lengthy communication with each other since that time and while the CCRC only refers a very small number of cases each year to appeal, a large number of these have been successful.
Mc Conville and Wootton were sentenced to 25 and 14 years respectively with Wootton receiving a sentence increase to 18 years in September 2014. Stephen Carroll was the first PSNI officer to be shot dead since the IRA ceasefire over 20 years ago and it was claimed by the Continuity IRA.
This petition will continue to run with updates as and when they arise.