Danny McNamee

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Danny McNamee.jpg
Danny McNamee - Victim of 'expert witness' Alan Feraday
Born29 September 1960

Gilbert "Danny" McNamee (born 29 September 1960)[1] is a former electronics engineer from Crossmaglen, Northern Ireland, who was wrongly convicted in October 1987 of conspiracy to cause explosions, including the Provisional IRA's Hyde Park bombing in July 1982.[2]

Danny McNamee was arrested on 16 August 1986 at his home in Crossmaglen by the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary, then flown to London and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions. At his Old Bailey trial, he denied even having sympathy for the IRA, and no evidence was ever presented that he had any paramilitary links. Additionally, the IRA itself stated that he was not a member, and never claimed him as a "prisoner of war".[3] However, his fingerprint was alleged to have been found on electronic circuits in an arms cache that was linked to the Hyde Park bombing. At his trial he explained that he may have handled the circuits when working for a previous employer, which he did not know had IRA connections.[4] After five hours of deliberation by the jury, McNamee was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In 1991 the Court of Appeal turned down his application for leave to appeal against his conviction.

Three years later Danny McNamee was one of six men, including Patrick Magee, who staged an armed break-out at Whitemoor prison, Cambridgeshire, shooting and wounding a prison warder as they did so, before being captured two hours later.[5]

Prosecution case

The prosecution case was led by Crown expert witness Alan Feraday who based the case against McNamee on three assertions:

  1. Feraday testified that a fragment of printed circuit board said to have been recovered on the crime scene - but which had not been forensically tested for explosive residues - had been specifically designed to trigger a radio-controlled bomb. IRA quartermaster Fr Patrick Ryan was later identified as having bought this type of sophisticated device.[6]
  2. Feraday also testified that the circuit was identical to circuits recovered from an IRA cache where fingerprints of McNamee had been found on a battery.
  3. Finally, Feraday testified that those circuits had been built by the same person.

(At McNamee's appeal, scientists far more qualified than Alan Feraday exposed all three prosecution assertions as utter nonsense. There was nothing specific about the circuit and it was very different in design and quality than the ones recovered at the cache. In fact, Danny McNamee had a degree in electrical engineering and would have done a much better job. The presence of his fingerprints on a battery was easily explained: he had worked in an electrical store owned by an IRA member.)[7]

Appeal granted

Danny McNamee's case was referred back to the Court of Appeal in July 1997 by the newly created Criminal Cases Review Commission set up to examine possible miscarrriages of justice. The CCRC was concerned about a number of issues, including scientific and fingerprint evidence and non-disclosure of evidence at the time of the trial.[8]

McNamee's counsel, Michael Mansfield QC, argued that the prosecution at his original trial at the Old Bailey painted a false picture of him as the "master bomb-maker" and that certain material had been kept from him. The conviction was based on fingerprints found on tape at two IRA arms dumps and on one battery that survived the Hyde Park explosion. Mr Mansfield said there were doubts that the fingerprint found on the battery was really that of McNamee and those on the tape could have come from an electronics factory where McNamee worked as an engineer.

At the start of the appeal hearing, Mr Mansfield told the judges that fresh evidence concerning convicted bomb-maker Desmond Ellis was now available that substantially undermined the prosecution case against McNamee and supported his defence. Because of media coverage of the widespread public outrage, when McNamee was put on trial for the bombing five years later the jury was prejudiced and unable to consider the case on the evidence alone. They were shown photos of the carnage, which became "the shadow behind everything," said Mr Mansfield.

McNamee's conviction was overturned on 17 December 1998.[9]


A delighted McNamee, 38, who was already free as part of the peace process, said the entire prosecution case had been "demolished" by his counsel, Michael Mansfield, and that the judges had no option but to quash the conviction.

"I will certainly be trying to get compensated for having lost 12 years of my life," he said.

In prison, McNamee obtained a degree in law, but because of his conviction, he was he was not allowed to practise law in Northern Ireland. The quashing of the verdict will now free him to follow his new career. However, McNamee was angered by grudging comments of the judges that even though the verdict was being set aside, he was not necessarily innocent. In allowing the appeal, the Court said that although the verdict of the original jury was unsafe, it did not mean that he was innocent of the charge or had spent years in jail for a crime he did not commit.

"That’s typical of the decisions they give in Irish cases," McNamee said. "It seems to be that the very fact that you are Irish means you are guilty by association.
"It was something we expected from the Court of Appeal. We looked at all the other decisions they have given in the Birmingham and Guildford and Maguire cases and we knew that was typical of their efforts to protect the reputation of the British justice system."

He also said the judges had been mischievous in only reading out part of the Judgment, which he said had agreed with all the arguments his defence had put forward.

"What we actually proved was that the case actually they presented against me in court was false and we actually showed they knew it was a false case," McNamee told RTE.

Foreign Affairs Minister David Andrews welcomed the setting aside of the verdict and paid tribute to solicitor Gareth Peirce for her "tireless work in a case of humanitarian concern."[10]