Women win 30-year battle to clear names

Women win 30-year battle to clear names

4 January 2017

TWO Downpatrick women have won a 30-year battle to clear their names after being falsely convicted of imprisoning a man in the town.

Mary Clinton and Bernadette Armstrong had their guilty verdicts quashed by judges in the Court of Appeal, which was told the alleged victim wanted money to identify others involved in the allegations of 1987.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said there was “unease” about the safety of the convictions given all the circumstances of the case.

Mrs Clinton and Mrs Armstrong have always pleaded their innocence over events at a house in Rathbeg Close in Downpatrick when the alleged victim was taken from the house and shot for being a suspected informer, according to case papers.

A republican, Sandy Lynch, later named as a state agent, was said to be involved and the lawyers based their appeal on the failure to reveal this detail during the original case.

They argued that this non disclosure rendered the convictions unsafe.

Gavin Booth, of KRW Law, said the refusal to arrest Sandy Lynch served a wider purpose to protect a State agent in order to “set up” other innocent victims.

The two women insisted the man had left the house of his own free will and maintained they had been unaware of any false imprisonment.

It was claimed that Mrs Armstrong, a single mother of young children, had pleaded guilty to the charge after being told she would be sent to jail if she contested the allegations. She received a two-year suspended sentence.

Ms Clinton, meanwhile, fought the case at a non-jury Diplock trial and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.