Supreme Court overturns Gerry Adams prison escape convictions from the 1970s 2 years ago

Supreme Court overturns Gerry Adams prison escape convictions from the 1970s

Adams was sentenced to over four years in prison for attempts to escape The Maze prison on two occasions in 1973 and 1974.

The UK Supreme Court has overturned two convictions on attempts by former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams to escape the Long Kesh Detention Centre in Down, also known as The Maze prison, in the mid-1970s.


In March and April 1975, Adams was handed down two convictions for attempting to escape from lawful custody from The Maze prison on two separate occasions, once on Christmas Eve 1973 and again in July 1974.

Adams was initially interned in the Maze without trial in March 1972, one of hundreds of people imprisoned in what was a controversial security crackdown by the UK government that remained in place until 1975.

Adams was released to participate in talks with the UK government in June 1972, at the height of the troubles, but was arrested again and returned to the Maze in July 1973.

Following his escape attempts, he was later sentenced to 18 months in jail for the first attempt in 1973 and an additional three years for the second attempt to escape prison in 1974. Both sentences were handed down after separate trials in front of a single judge with no jury.


In a judgement released following a remote hearing on Wednesday, Lord Kerr, the former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, said that the appeal was “unanimously” allowed by the Supreme Court.

The convictions were “invalid” and “unlawful”, the judgement read, as they were not personally considered by the then-secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Willie Whitelaw.

“It holds that the power under article 4 of the 1972 Order should be exercised by the Secretary of State personally, and, therefore, that the making of the ICO (Interim Custody Order) in respect of the appellant was invalid, and that his consequent detention and convictions were unlawful,” the Supreme Court judgement read.

“Lord Kerr gives the judgment with which the other members of the court agree.”


The Supreme Court judgement can be read in full here.