Northern Ireland news

Judge finds IRA trial evidence 'unsatisfactory'

Mark Heaney at an earlier court hearing

The evidence of MI5 officers in the trial of four men accused, among others things of IRA membership, was postponed today after trial Judge Patricia Smyth criticised the evidence of one officer.

The Belfast Crown Court judge, sitting without a jury, told the Security Service witness "I find this evidence to be unsatisfactory".

The witness, with the cypher PIN '10008', was being questioned about a statement he made concerning his handling of a covert tape recording made of suspects in a house in Aspen Walk, Twinbrook in February 2014.

Earlier, having given his direct evidence about his handing a working copy of the designated "LTO tape" to another PIN officer, he was then questioned by defence lawyer JonPaul Shields about the circumstances surrounding his signed statement of evidence.

At one stage Mr Shields put it to the officer that by September 2014 he had little or no recollection of what took place seven months earlier in February that year, suggesting instead that he had been presented with a statement for his signature.

When Judge Smyth in turn questioned the Security Service witness he denied the suggestion the statement "was simply handed" to him, telling the court that he would have "given an account" before the statement was typed for his signature.

At one stage the witness suggested he would have used "a log", only to be told by the Judge that he had been asked earlier if he had used a log, and he said he had not.

"So is the answer not, that you were handed this document and you signed it," said Judge Smyth, who also asked the officer what had he used to remember events in February 2014.

In conclusion Judge Smyth said that she found the officer's evidence "to be unsatisfactory".

Following the judge's criticism, the prosecution requested a short adjournment, before any re-examination of the witness, to enable him to make "some inquiries about some exhibits".

However, the senior lawyer later returned to ask for an extension of time, while indicating that it may have a bearing on whether or not they and any other "Pin witnesses" would be called to give evidence today.

Later counsel reported that he had been unable to get the "materials at the moment", and as a result, he did not "propose or examine any further PIN witnesses at the moment".

The four defendants are: 52-year-old Mark Gerard Heaney of Lagmore Gardens, Daniel Joseph Anthony McClean (52), also of Lagmore Gardens, 62-year-old Kevin O'Neill from Coolnasilla Park south and 41-year-old Robert Warnock O'Neill of Bingnian Drive.

All are accused of IRA membership between December 2013 and June 2014, and conspiracy to inflict grievous bodily harm on a suspected drug dealer.

Heaney and Robert O'Neill also face separate charges of possessing a firearm with intent and under suspicious circumstances, and with McClean also with collecting information on drug dealers and falsely imprisoning a suspected dealer.

Kevin O'Neill alone is additionally charged with possessing articles useful to terrorists including an imitation firearm, camouflage jackets and black gloves, allegedly uncovered during a search of his home following his arrest in June 2014.

The trial continues

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