Northern Ireland

Maze escapee Bik McFarlane wins Irish government damages

The Irish government must pay compensation to Maze Prison escapee Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane following a European Court of Human Rights ruling.

McFarlane escaped from the Maze in 1983 but was later recaptured.

Days after his release in 1998, he was arrested and subsequently charged in connection with kidnapping supermarket executive Don Tidey while on the run. He was acquitted in 2008.

The court found the proceedings against him had been "unreasonably long".

It found the Irish government had violated his right to a fair trial within a reasonable time.

The Irish government was ordered to pay Mr McFarlane 5,400 euros in damages within three months and 10,000 euros in legal costs.

In the judgement, it said McFarlane had to report to Dublin's non-jury Special Criminal Court 40 times over a 10-year period, a round trip of 320 km from his Belfast home.

The court found that although McFarlane's conduct "had contributed somewhat to the delay, it did not explain the overall length of the proceedings against him".

"On the other hand, the government had not provided convincing explanations for certain delays attributable to the authorities, which added to the overall length of the criminal proceedings."

McFarlane was one of 38 IRA prisoners who escaped from the Maze.

He was later caught in Amsterdam and extradited to Northern Ireland.

McFarlane was arrested by gardai in 1998 and charged with the unlawful possession of a firearm and falsely imprisoning Mr Tidey near Ballinamore, County Leitrim 15 years earlier.

However, his trial collapsed after gardai lost items including a milk carton, a plastic container and a cooking pot - all of which, it was claimed, had his fingerprints on them.

His retrial at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin collapsed in June 2008, when the prosecution said it would offer no further evidence after a court ruling that garda evidence was inadmissible.

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