Prisoner's claim that SAS beat him is rejected

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The Independent Online
A PRISONER'S claim that he was beaten up by members of the elite Special Air Service when they brought a jail siege to an end was rejected yesterday by a jury at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

John Devine, 32, had alleged that the SAS soldiers beat him when they burst into Peterhead prison, Grampian, on 3 October 1987 to free a prison officer who had been taken hostage. Evidence was given to the court that Mr Devine had been struck once on the forearm and again in the face when soldiers burst into the attic where he and two other prisoners were holding their hostage.

Mr Devine also alleged that he was thrown 12ft from the attic after being told by one of the soldiers: 'You're going for a spin, pal', and that he was thrown down several flights of stairs as the SAS removed him from D Hall.

The jury took 30 minutes to reject Mr Devine's civil action, in which he sued the Secretary of State for Scotland for pounds 30,000 for injuries he claimed to have received in the siege.

During the trial members of the SAS gave evidence from behind a screen to protect their identity. The court was told that an SAS team armed with batons, gas canisters and 'flash bangs' had ended the six-day siege and freed the prison officer, Jackie Stuart.

Mr Devine's lawyer, Cameron Fyfe, said after the case: 'The fact that the case proceeded to court and, in particular, to a jury is, for him, a victory in itself. For years the authorities refused to admit that the SAS was used to bring the Peterhead siege to an end.'

Mr Fyfe said that his client also wanted him to highlight his frustration in getting his case to court. 'We came up against a great deal of resistance . . . In particular, Mr Devine was granted legal aid only at the last minute. This situation should not be allowed to arise again.'

It was confirmed last night that the convicted killer Jimmy Boyle, who developed his talents as an artist and sculptor in Barlinnie prison's special unit, helped to pay Mr Devine's initial legal costs in bringing his case.

Commenting on the outcome last night, Mr Boyle said: 'As far as I am concerned, the main principle of the case was established . . . that the SAS were held accountable for their actions in open court.'