Forensic failure raises questions, says O Cuiv


THE "bizarre" admission of forensic contamination at Britain's explosives laboratory raised a number of unanswered questions, the Fianna Fail spokesman on Prisoner Affairs, Mr Eamon O Cuiv, said yesterday.

It would appear from information given to him that the British Home Secretary, Mr Michael Howard, knew of the contamination since March 14th. Why did he choose to release the information two months later? he asked.

He understood that the matter was brought to light by a parliamentary question asked by Mr Piers Merchant MP, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Mr Howard, he added.

Mr O Cuiv maintained that the forensic laboratory at the centre of the case was located in Mr Merchant's constituency. It should be asked, he said, why a parliamentary private secretary had to put down a parliamentary question to get this information unless it was a deliberate decision by the Home Office and the Home Secretary to release it at this time.

He also suggested that the new information could seriously affect the operation of the transfer of sentenced persons legislation. One of the conditions of this legislation was that on transfer to a new jurisdiction, no further appeal or reopening of a convicted person's case was possible. This posed the choice to long serving prisoners to remain in Britain until this matter was finalised or accept a transfer.

Mr O Cuiv called on the Government to seek immediate clarification on this point.