Criminal Cases Review Commission
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Northern Ireland Court of Appeal quashes 1976 murder conviction after CCRC referral

The Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland has today quashed a conviction for murder, after a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Patrick Thompson received a life sentence with a 30-year minimum term for the murder of four British Army officers in a Northern Ireland landmine attack in the mid-1970s.   

The explosion, which happened early in the morning of July 17th, 1975, on the road between Dundalk and Newtownhamilton, is often referred to as the ‘Forkhill landmine attack’.   

The CCRC referred Mr Thompson’s case on the grounds that there was a real possibility the Court of Appeal would find his conviction to be ‘unsafe’ because the senior officer who led the investigation was not a credible witness.   

Mr Thompson applied to the CCRC in February 2018 and compelling evidence was found which challenged the credibility of the senior investigating police officer who questioned him at the time of his arrest.  

The same police officer was later criticised in the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal’s decision in R v Latimer, Hegan, Bell and Allen [1992] 1 NIJB 89.  

The Lady Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Dame Siobhan Keegan LCJ referred to this when quashing the conviction and said: “We also commend the CCRC for drawing the Latimer issue to the attention of the court.” 

The conviction was quashed on 22 April 2024, and the CCRC referred the case on 10 March 2022.

Notes to Editor:  

  1. The CCRC is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.     
  2. There are currently 10 Commissioners who bring to the CCRC considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.  The Chairman, who is also a Commissioner, is not involved in the casework decision-making process.  
  3. The CCRC usually receives around 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Since starting work in 1997, the CCRC has referred around 3% of applications to the appeal courts.     
  4. The CCRC considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal.  Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.    
  5. If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the sentence is unfair.     
  6. More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at The CCRC can be found on Twitter @ccrcupdate.


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