In the Courts: Man freed after RUC murder charges dropped

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The Independent Online
Republican to seek compensation from the DPP after being cleared for the second time in a year in connection with terrorist killings.

A man walked free from a Northern Ireland court yesterday after a double murder charge against him was dropped and then he condemned the system which put him behind bars for the second time for a crime he did not commit.

Colin Duffy, 29, has instructed lawyers to seek compensation after the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped charges of murdering two Royal Ulster Constabulary officers.

The officers were shot dead by the IRA in his home town of Lurgan, Co Armagh during the summer.

It is the second time that Mr Duffy's name has been cleared in connection with terrorist killings.

In September last year, he was released from prison after serving three- and-a-half years when the Court of Appeal quashed a life sentence for murder.

A week after the ambush of the two policemen on 16 June this year Mr Duffy was arrested for a second time, despite protesting his innocence.

After walking free from the magistrates' court at Lisburn, Co Antrim, where the charges were withdrawn following an action earlier in the Northern Ireland High Court, Mr Duffy expressed his delight at being free - but anger at having been arrested in the first place.

"My reaction is quite plain and simple, obviously I am delighted at being released," he said, adding that once again he had been arrested for something he had not done.

"It is an indictment of the system as a whole, from the RUC right through to the courts. Until this system is changed there isn't going to be any justice in this part of the country."

Mr Duffy claimed that the case against him had been manipulated and he said he felt "a lot of anger and frustration at the system".

He added: "It has taken over three months to get me released. The evidence hasn't changed since the moment I was arrested."

The DPP decided to drop the case against him after the credibility of an unnamed female witness who allegedly witnessed the murders was questioned. Mr Duffy said that he did not feel anger towards the woman, but sympathy. "I know what the RUC are like. I don't blame her for it at the end of the day," he said.

Mr Duffy said that he had been arrested because he was a republican, adding "that's all that is needed".

His solicitor Rosemary Nelson confirmed t hat she had been instructed to begin civil action over the case.

"This matter has caused the gravest concern in legal circles, amongst international civil rights bodies and public representatives," she said.

Mr Duffy's pregnant wife, Susan, who lives with her eight year old daughter, Catrina, in Lurgan's republican Kilwilkie estate, said: "Collie is a republican, but that doesn't mean he should be arrested for everything that happens in this town."

Sinn Fein said the release of Mr Duffy confirmed that there had been a concerted and vindictive campaign against him and his family.

The party's northern chairman, Gerry O hEara, said that people should now be left in no doubt about how corrupt the police and judicial system was.