Judge tells PSNI to hand over murder case files

Posted By: January 21, 2016

Connla Young. Irish News. Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A judge has given the PSNI two weeks to hand over files relating to murdered GAA official Sean Brown.
A senior judge has ordered the PSNI to hand over documents relating to the murder of Co Derry GAA official Sean Brown within two weeks.

Lord Justice Reg Weir made the demand after it emerged that the release of information has been further delayed after “inconsistencies” were identified in the redaction process by the Coroners Service.

Over the years Mr Brown’s family members have attended at least 25 preliminary inquest hearings.

The judge, who was appointed to carry out a review of 56 outstanding Troubles-related inquests by Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan, was critical of police during the second day of a two-week schedule of hearings.

Mr Brown was abducted by the LVF as he locked up at Bellaghy Wolfe Tones GAA grounds in the village in May 1997.

The 61-year-old was then driven to a remote laneway near Randalstown in Co Antrim where he was shot several times.

During yesterday’s review hearing, the Brown family barrister Karen Quinlivan QC said it is “one of the worst cases in terms of disclosure”.

She claimed that during previous hearings, now retired former senior coroner John Leckey was “ignored by the PSNI routinely”.

“This is one of the features (of legacy cases) – the PSNI make commitments which they do not fulfil, routinely,” she said.

The court in Belfast heard that the only documents made available to the family include a Police Ombudsman report and a draft copy of a Historical Enquiries Team review.

Last year Policing Board member Dolores Kelly accused the PSNI of protecting Mr Brown’s killers because they are British agents.

Ordering the release of 34 files of non-sensitive material within two weeks, Lord Justice Weir warned against more delays.

“This isn’t a place where people come in and do things at their own speed,” he said.

“They do them when I say they are to be done.”

Martin Wolfe QC, acting for the PSNI, said he would aspire to complete “sensitive” case files by early summer, prompting a harsh response from the judge who confirmed he will report on his review to the Lord Chief Justice.

“I don’t think he’ll (Declan Morgan) want to hear much from me about your aspirations,” he said.

“He’ll want me to tell him what you are going to do.”

During the hearing a barrister for the Coroners Service revealed that “inconsistencies” have recently been identified in the way information released to it has been redacted, and that the PSNI was notified.

Lord Justice Weir told the PSNI barrister that it was not the Coroners Service’s job to “mark your homework”.

“Redaction is supposed to be taken seriously,” he said.

“That means redaction on one page should be the same on the next page. Redactions should not vary depending of the state of digestion of the person carrying it out on any one day.”

Speaking after the hearing solicitor, Niall Murphy from KRW Law said the court order to produce documents was “significant”.

“It’s a massive step forward for the Brown family,” he said.

Paul O’Connor from the Pat Finucane Centre, who has worked closely with the family, added that the Republic’s government and members of the GAA across Ireland have taken a keen interest in the case.