Eight-month sentence for prisoner who had been on the run for 22 years

Northern Ireland’s longest on-the-run prisoner, caught by Welsh police after 22 years, has been handed an eight-month jail sentence.
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Jailing 49-year-old Edward James John Hickey at Antrim Crown Court, Judge Alistair Devlin said his “excessively long absence must render this case much more serious than it otherwise would have been”.

Ordering that it will be served consecutively to the sentence Hickey began at the start of the century, the judge said while the case was exceptional given the length of absence and that Hickey had effectively “turned his life around,” he warned there had to be a punishment as he had breached the trust placed in him by the prison service.

"Temporary home leave at Christmas, or at any other time, rests on an essential element of mutual trust,” said Judge Devlin. “Unfortunately you abused that trust … and there has to be adverse consequences for anyone who might be tempted to do what you did.”

HMP Magilligan. Picture: GoogleHMP Magilligan. Picture: Google
HMP Magilligan. Picture: Google

Last month Hickey, from the Monasterboice Road in Dublin, entered a guilty plea to the single charge against him that between January 2, 2001 and January 11, 2023, having been ordered to serve a jail sentence at HMP Magilligan, he was “afterwards, and before the expiration of the term for which you were so sentenced at large without lawful excuse”.

During his sentencing remarks, Judge Devlin outlined that it was as long ago as December 2000 at Belfast Crown Court when Hickey was jailed for five years, for having a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

He had been granted temporary home leave for over Christmas and was due to return on January 2, 2001 but he never appeared.

Hickey was not arrested until last January when police on the Welsh island of Anglesey alerted the PSNI that a passenger by the name of Edward Hockey was due to arrive on a ferry from Dublin.

He was duly arrested and flown back to Belfast where he made full admissions, claiming that he had intended to go back but having been told that his mother was seriously ill, he instead opted to stay with her in Dublin.

Judge Devlin said while it was to his credit that he had essentially stayed out of trouble the entire time, starting a family and working as a forklift driver to provide for them, it was also a factor that he did not “following a period of mature reflection,” decide to hand himself in, even after the unfortunate passing of his mother.

The judge said the offence was different from that of escaping from lawful custody, an offence which carries a maximum of life imprisonment, and he accepted his decision not to go back to Magilligan prison “was impulsive rather than planned”.

Imposing the eight-month sentence, Judge Devlin ordered that it would only begin when Hickey has finished serving the jail sentence originally imposed two decades ago.