Northern Ireland news

Family of man who was shot dead by police seek officer's medical files

Steven Colwell (23) had apparently ignored police commands to stop the vehicle
Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

POLICE medical records on an officer who shot the driver of a stolen car should be handed over to lawyers for the dead man's family, a coroner's court has been told.

Steven Colwell (23) died in April 2006 after police fired on the BMW which failed to stop at a checkpoint in Ballynahinch, Co Down.

The policeman who shot him, known only as Officer O, was accused of critically flawed judgment by former police ombudsman Al Hutchinson, who reviewed the case.

Karen Quinlivin QC, representing the next of kin, called for access to the same occupational health notes provided to a senior doctor who assessed Officer O's fitness for frontline duty.

His legal team hope to instruct their own medical expert to conduct a review, a preliminary hearing at Belfast's Laganside House was told.

Ms Quinlivan told the court on Friday: "Our purpose would be to review, through an expert, the same material that Dr [Michael] Curran reviewed.

"Our expert requires the same access to anything Dr Curran had access to."

The barrister offered assurances that the notes would be held at a secure location in her instructing solicitor's office and said lawyers would "obey rules" regarding any sensitive matters.

She also requested access to official records detailing Officer O's training in the use of firearms, hard stops (in which police stop a vehicle with their guns drawn) and vehicle checkpoints.

"We are anxious to see Officer O's training file," she added.

"We are conscious that he had a significant period of absence prior to this and we want to know what steps the PSNI took in terms of retraining."

Colwell was the driver of a stolen car which appeared to be attempting to evade a vehicle checkpoint and had apparently ignored commands to stop the car.

Mark Mulholland QC, for Officer O, highlighted human rights issues, particularly around the right to privacy.

However, counsel for the coroner, next of kin and Officer O agreed to consult to formulate a way forward on the contentious matter.

Scheduling another preliminary hearing for September, Coroner Joe McCrisken warned legal representatives to ensure they had read all the papers in the case.

He said: "It is not an excuse I will accept, if someone says they have not had time to read the papers.

"You will have had all summer to read them."

The full inquest has been listed for November.

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