Decision not to refer convicted killer Garfield Beattie to parole board over threats challenged

Garfield Beattie served 16 years behind bars on a life sentence for three killings carried out by the so-called Glenanne gang,

Failing to revoke a loyalist murderer’s license for sending a menacing letter to the daughter of one of his victims was unlawful and unreasonable, the High Court heard today.

A judge was told Garfield Beattie behaved “egregiously” by targeting Denise Mullen in correspondence purported to be from the same terrorist organisation behind her father’s killing.

Ms Mullen and the son of another man murdered by the 66-year-old are challenging a decision not to refer his case to the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland (PCNI).

Beattie, of Moss Road in Portadown, served 16 years behind bars on a life sentence for three killings carried out by the so-called Glenanne gang, a notorious loyalist unit which operated at the height of the Troubles.

His victims included Denis Mullen, gunned down at his home near Moy, Co Tyrone in 1975, and Patrick McNeice, who was shot dead outside his Co Armagh home a year later.

In December last year he was handed a further 17-month term after being found guilty of attempting to intimidate Mr Mullen’s daughter Denise.

He had sent her a letter signed by the East Tyrone Ulster Volunteer Force.

Ms Mullen and Patrick McNeice’s son, John, both then pressed for Beattie’s life sentence license to be revoked.

But earlier this year the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Panel (MARAP) decided against ordering his recall.

The threshold for initiating his revocation was deemed not to have been met.

Lawyers for the two bereaved relatives claim the Department got it wrong by not referring Beattie’s case to the Parole Commissioners for an assessment of the risk he poses to the public.

They are both seeking an order quashing the determination reached by MARAP.

Ms Mullen’s barrister, Desmond Fahy KC, described the circumstances as “stark and disturbing”.

He told the court: “The context and circumstances with which the court is faced in relation to Beattie’s conduct could hardly be more egregious.

“They represent the targeting and the threatening of a daughter of a man who he murdered in the name of the same terrorist organisation responsible for the murder, that is the UVF.”

Mr Fahy insisted consideration should have been given by the Commissioners, a judicially appointed body with significant expertise.

“The core of the applicant’s case is that the failure by the respondent to refer the case to the PCNI… was unlawful and unreasonable,” he added.

“The impact of this failure became more momentous and correspondingly less sustainable throughout 2021 and 2022.”

Tony McGleenan KC, responding for the Department, argued that safeguarding mechanisms within the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order were deployed by relevant agencies at each stage of the process.

“This was a very thorough consideration of all the risk issues posed by this particular offender,” he submitted.

According to Mr McGleenan, both Ms Mullen and Mr McNeice were offered the opportunity to make written representations during a process involving 14 meetings to determine if the risk posed by Beattie could be managed.

“On any showing this is not a decision that is irrational,” counsel said.

With Beattie released again last month, Mr McGleenan stressed: “There hasn’t been a repeat of any risk-type behaviour by the offender.”

Reserving judgment, Mr Justice Colton pledged to rule on the challenge as soon as possible.

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