Gagging Order
DPP battling to prevent lawyers from gaining access to evidence in Donaldson, Kearney and Mackessy cases

The Andersonstown News has learned that the Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions is still battling to secure a Public Interest Immunity Certificate (PIIC) in the high-profile case of three local men – almost six weeks after first making the application.

On Thursday, October 14, Crown Counsel Gordon Kerr lodged the DPP’s application for a PIIC, otherwise known as a ‘gagging order’, before Justice Coghlin at the High Court.

The application is designed to prevent defence lawyers for Denis Donaldson, Ciarán Kearney and Billy Mackessy from gaining access to key elements of the alleged evidence that led to their arrest and subsequent charging over two years ago, in October 2002.

All three men were held during a major PSNI Special Branch raid operation that precipitated the collapse of the power-sharing Assembly.

Already half of the charges in the case have been dropped without explanation, and the associated cases against two other people have also been dropped before reaching trial.

It has now emerged that in the period since the PIIC application was first lodged, two subsequent hearings relating to the matter have been held.

The most recent of these hearings was last Friday.

All three PIIC hearings have now been held on an ex-parte basis, meaning that the defence has been completely excluded and is, according to one source, “completely in the dark”.

The DPP has also refused to provide the defence with even a general outline of the type of material which it wishes to gag.

Prior to the PIIC application being initially lodged on October 14, defence barrister Seamus Treacy submitted that arrest of the three men “was connected to at least three, and perhaps four, security force operations”.

Mr Treacy pointed out that the case against the accused involved “a very, very substantial amount of undisclosed material”.

On foot of what he argued are the “exceptional circumstances in the case”, Mr Treacy had argued for the appointment of a special independent counsel who could scrutinise the PIIC application process.

The defence barrister also highlighted media reports about the various PSNI operations that preceded the arrests in October 2002, including Operation Hezz, Operation Husk, Operation Torsion, as well as an Operation referred to only as ‘TTTT’ in the Crown papers.

The BBC’s Security Editor Brian Rowan has claimed that Operation Torsion involved widespread Special Branch surveillance – which, it has emerged, was sanctioned at the highest level of the NIO; covert PSNI house break-ins; the removal, handling and replacement of alleged evidence by the PSNI prior to the raids and arrests; and the use of a PSNI agent.

Seamus Treacy submitted that the accused should be entitled to all the material that is either connected with or arising out of the PSNI operations that preceded the arrests, for example, the circumstances in which allegedly incriminating material came to be in the home of Mr Donaldson.

The latest delays in the processing of the PIIC application mirror ongoing delays which have plagued the case against Mr Donalson, Mr Kearney and Mr Mackessy.

Previous court hearings have heard that the defence teams for the three men are encountering significant obstacles to even the most basic issues of disclosure by the Crown.

It is understood that these concerns have increased substantially in recent weeks.

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?