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Winston Rea denied access to his Boston College transcript, court hears

Loyalist Winston Rea at an earlier court hearing. Picture by Hugh Russell.

PROSECUTORS are refusing to give a senior loyalist a transcript of his Boston College tape interviews, a court heard today.

Lawyers for Winston Rea described the decision as "unsatisfactory'' and now plan to challenge the decision to deny him access to the material.

But the prosecution say that the reason for not giving the defendant a copy of the transcripts was part of "international mutual agreement'' between the USA and the UK when the tapes were handed over to the PSNI.

Mr Rea (66), of Springwell Road in Groomsport, Co Down, is awaiting trial on a total of 19 charges brought as result of the interview he gave to Boston College researchers behind a project on the Northern Ireland conflict.

During an arraignment hearing last October, the defendant denied all 19 charges said to have been committed between 1973 and 1996.

Included in the charges are conspiring to murder Catholic men John Devine in July 1989 and John O'Hara in April 1991.

Mr Devine (37) was shot in front of his teenage son in west Belfast while Mr O'Hara, a 41-year-old taxi driver, was lured to his murder in the south of the city.

Mr Rea has also been charged with conspiring with others to threaten to kill LVF leader Billy Wright in August 1996.

He also pleaded not guilty firearms and other terror-related charges, including conspiring to possess firearms secured from the Ulster Resistance paramilitary group on dates between November 1986 and October 1994.

He is further charged with encouraging the murder of "persons working in shops selling An Phoblacht in republican and nationalist areas" between November 1977 and October 1994.

During the hearing at Belfast Crown Court, defence barrister Tom McCreanor told Mr Justice Colton that the prosecution were refusing Mr Rea his own copy of a transcript of the taped interviews for the Boston College project.

Mr McCreanor said copies of the transcripts had been made available to Mr Rea's solicitor, junior counsel and senior counsel.

"Mr Rea is entitled to access to these material,'' Mr McCreanor told the court. "He has not had his own copy and it is not a satisfactory way for him to prepare himself for trial.

"He is not allowed to make notes and he is not allowed to show the material to others. This is historical material which requires investigation by the accused for the prepartion of his trial. It is unsatisfactory.''

A prosecution lawyer told the court that as part of the "international mutal agreement with the USA'', undertakings were given about how the material would be disseminated before it was handed over.

Mr Justice Colton adjourned the hearing until January 26 when he said he would hear legal arguments on the case before deciding on whether or not to give Mr Rea his own copy of the transcripts.

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