Northern Ireland news

New leading prosecutor granted permission to take over murder case

 Christopher Mackin was shot dead in Belfast

IN what was described as a "highly unusual and unprecedented" move, a new leading prosecutor has been granted permission to take over in a murder case, following the resignation of his predecessor.

As a result, the Crown Court case against a Belfast man, his wife and brother on charges arising out of the murder of 31-year-old Christopher Mackin five years ago this month, has been adjourned until after Easter.

Mr Justice Treacy was told today that lead prosecutor Terence Mooney QC has pulled out of the case "for professional reasons".

Frank O'Donoghue QC told the city's Crown Court that he had been asked by the Director of Public Prosecutions to take over as chief prosecutor in the case against Charles Stephen Valliday (45), his 40-year-old wife Julie Ann, and Valliday's 51-year-old brother, James John Valliday.

Applying for the adjournment, Mr O'Donoghue said he had been brought in "completely cold" and would ask court to allow him "some time" to review the case.

The lawyer said he would "prioritise these matters" and would read and review all of the evidence in the case, but in order to do so, he would need until after the Easter vacation to do so.

Earlier, he had told the court that Mr Mooney, the previous lead prosecution counsel, had as he understood it, reached the conclusion that he could no longer act in that capacity and had informed the Public Prosecution Services.

Mr O'Donoghue said the director later explained to him that Mr Mooney had "come out of the case for professional reasons".

Agreeing to the adjournment until next month, Mr Justice Treacy said it was "an unusual, and as indicated as counsel observed, an unprecedented move", but that in the circumstances, Mr O'Donoghue should be "given appropriate time to discharge the task imposed upon him".

However, he warned that no further time would be allowed and that the prosecution must be in a position to continue with the case on the first day of the new crown court term.

Mr Justice Treacy added that if there were any further developments in the intervening period, then they should be reported to the court "forthwith".

Mr and Mrs Valliday, originally from Powerscourt Place, Belfast, deny the murder of Mr Mackin, also known by the nickname `Crickey'. He was shot at least seven time outside his College Square North home, near Belfast's city centre on March 1, 2012.

The couple, now with an address in Islay Street, Antrim, also deny possessing a Smith and Wesson revolver and ammunition and a £70,000 haul of cocaine and heroin drugs found hidden in an Audi A4 car, allegedly belonging to Mrs Valliday.

Valliday's elder brother James, from Springfield Meadows, Belfast, denies assisting offenders after the shooting.

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