Attempt to access former IRA man’s Boston College tapes ‘replete with errors’ court told

Lawyers for Anthony McIntyre and a senior judge both identified errors in the request letter setting out alleged offences under police investigation

Anthony McIntyre

Anthony McIntyre

 

A transatlantic process to obtain a former IRA man’s confidential interviews with an American university project was “replete with errors”, the High Court in Belfast heard today.

Lawyers for Anthony McIntyre and a senior judge both identified errors in the request letter setting out alleged offences under police investigation.

McIntyre is locked in a legal battle to stop detectives obtaining taped recordings of his participation in the Boston College project.

Reserving judgment following a series of hearings, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said: “We want to consider the voluminous papers and recent submissions.”

McIntyre was one of the main researchers in the initiative to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Dozens of loyalists and republicans provided testimonies on the understanding their accounts would remain confidential while they are alive. But those assurances were dealt a blow after police secured transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and high-profile loyalist Winston “Winkie” Rea.

Now detectives want access to McIntyre’s recorded recollection of his own IRA activities as part of investigations into alleged terrorist offences stretching back more than 40 years.

A subpoena seeking copies of his interviews was served on Boston College by the British government. The move involved an International Letter of Request (ILOR) setting out alleged offences being probed, including a bomb explosion at Rugby Avenue in Belfast in 1976, and membership of a proscribed organisation.

Although the tapes were released and flown from America, they remain under seal within the court until the legal challenge is determined.

McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in the Republic, is seeking to judicially review the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for issuing an ILOR his lawyers claim is littered with inaccuracies. They insisted that he was the victim in the bombing, and that he was acquitted of the membership charge that features in the ILOR.

Other alleged mistakes said to feature in the letter include an armed robbery incident for which McIntyre was never convicted.

As final submissions were made in court today, another of the three judges, Sir Reg Weir, stressed the importance of accuracy in the documents. “This is replete with errors,” he said.

Counsel for the respondents was pressed for confirmation on exactly when the explosion under investigation had occurred. Sir Reg continued: “You would think police would know what date the bomb went off, this wasn’t a case about a stolen bicycle.”

Peter Coll QC, representing the PPS, replied that bombings were not a rare occurrence in Belfast at the time. He insisted that any mistaken information in the original correspondence had been corrected and regularised.

Mr Coll also rejected any suggestion that police and prosecutors were pretending to investigate the Rugby Avenue incident as an act of “subterfuge” to gain access to McIntyre’s Boston College tapes.

Instead, he contended, the former IRA man’s legal case was “built on sand”. According to the barrister the legal challenge amounted to a suggestion that the court should supervise a police investigation. “That is wrong and should not be encouraged,” he said.

But Ronan Lavery QC, for McIntyre, insisted the ILOR should have been withdrawn because of the amount of errors within it. He also submitted: “It’s striking, considering the budget difficulties on investigations which are live, have never been resolved and in which there are victims, that police time and money should be spent on investigating crimes of this vintage of someone who has already served a lengthy term in prison. “One wonders how this has been prioritised in this way.”