30/06/2004

Appeal Court rules 'Real' IRA is an illegal organisation

The Court of Appeal in Belfast, overturning an earlier Crown Court decision, has ruled that the 'Real' IRA is an illegal terrorist organisation.

The finding followed on from a Crown Court decision that the Real IRA was not a proscribed organisation within the terms of the applicable anti-terrorist legislation, during a trial in which Mr Justice Girvan dismissed charges of membership to the Real IRA brought against four men last month.

In today's ruling Lord Chief Justice Brian Kerr and Lord Justices Nicholson and Campbell determined that the Terrorism Act 2000 was passed by Parliament in the knowledge that the Real IRA was in existence and was a terrorist grouping.

The Lord Chief Justice said: "At the time of the enactment of the Terrorism Act 2000, Parliament was well aware of the existence and activities of the 'Real' IRA. Quite apart from the notoriety of the outrage in Omagh in August 1998, this much is clear from the fact that the 'Real' IRA was specified under the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998 before the Terrorism Act was passed.

"In our judgment it is inconceivable that the legislature did not intend that the 'Real' IRA should be proscribed and that its members should be liable to prosecution for belonging to a proscribed organisation."

Concluding, the Court of Appeal Justices said: "…we are of the opinion that a person who belongs to or professes to belong to the 'Real' Irish Republican Army commits an offence contrary to section 11 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2000."

Leave to appeal the decision to the House of Lords has been lodged by the defence.

A decision on the leave to appeal is not expected until next week.

(SP)

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