Northern Ireland news

Lawyer in 'secret recording' trial complains about witness answers

Colin Duffy

A DEFENCE lawyer in the trial of three men allegedly secretly recorded by MI5, yesterday complained of prosecution witnesses citing "national security" when questioned by them - but giving answers to similar questions from the prosecution.

A senior lawyer said he viewed "with some disquiet" witnesses refusing to answer questions about equipment employed in the covert operations.

The intervention came after the re-examination of a former PSNI officer by the prosecution concerning a 'video camera' he had deployed in the Forest Glade area of Lurgan, Co Armagh,

Earlier Mr Justice O'Hara, who told defence counsel, "I have noted your point", had heard the retired detective, with the cypher Oscar 340, repeatedly maintain: "I can't answer that question on the grounds of national security" when cross-examined by lawyers for Colin Duffy (51), Henry Fitzsimons (50) and 57-year-old Alex McCrory.

The trio, whose addresses can't be reported at this time, deny preparing and directing terrorism, and membership or professing to be members of the IRA.

Fitzsimons and McCrory also deny attempting to murder police in a convoy, and possessing of the two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition used in the north Belfast shooting on December 5, 2013.

Oscar 340 initially told a senior prosecution lawyer he had set up a video camera on a date prior to 6 December 2013 in an operation codenamed "Idealistic" and subsequently, on a later date had extracted the camera.

However when asked about the cameras and their operation by a defence lawyer he said: "I can't answer that question on the grounds of national security".

On one occasion he did say he could not answer questions because "there would be aspects (of the equipment) that I don't know", but was quick to add he could not answer as "there would be aspects of national security".

In the Crown re-examination, after a short adjournment, he initially reported that the serial number on notebooks were not sequential and that the notes made in them were completed contemporaneously, or before the termination of his duties, "on some occasions, yes, and on other occasions no".

However, when asked by the prosecution if he had signed any record for the device, he replied, after pausing somewhat, "there is a record made that the camera has been deployed".

But when asked if it was contained within "the surveillance log", Oscar 340 said he had not seen "the surveillance log".

Later the non-jury Diplock syle hearing listened again, to various audio recordings said to have been made of the three men.

The trial continues.

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