In 2020, the former president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, won an appeal to have two historic convictions overturned. This led to Mr. Adams being eligible to receive compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. Mr. Justice Colton presided over the case and ruled that Mr. Adams met the requirements to receive compensation for his imprisonment. The judge quashed a previous decision that denied Mr. Adams a payout and ordered the Department of Justice to reconsider his application.
Mr. Adams was found guilty of two attempts to escape from lawful custody in 1973 and 1974. He had been held without trial at the Maze Prison, also known as Long Kesh internment camp, and later sentenced to four-and-a-half years in jail. However, the Supreme Court later ruled that his detention had been unlawful and quashed both convictions.
The reason for the quashing of the convictions was that the interim custody order (ICO) used to detain Mr. Adams was held to be invalid because it had not been personally authorised by the then-Northern Ireland secretary, Willie Whitelaw. Following the quashing of his convictions, Mr. Adams submitted an application for compensation, which was initially turned down. He then issued judicial review proceedings, and his lawyers argued that he qualified for compensation under the statutory scheme.
According to the statutory scheme, payment for a miscarriage of justice is made in cases where “a new or newly discovered fact” shows that the person did not commit the offence. Mr. Adams’ lawyers argued that he qualified for compensation based on new circumstances established by the Supreme Court. Therefore, Mr. Justice Colton’s ruling ordered the Department of Justice to reconsider Mr. Adams’ application for compensation, as he met the requirements for a payout due to his wrongful imprisonment.