Judge rejects bid to review tribunal screening decision

 

FREDDIE SCAPPATICCI, who denies he was a British army agent within the IRA known as “Stakeknife”, has been refused leave to bring a High Court challenge arising from the Smithwick Tribunal’s decision allowing witness Kevin Fulton to give evidence from behind a screen.

Mr Scappaticci claimed his lawyer’s inability to see Mr Fulton, a former British army agent also known as Peter Keeley, while Mr Fulton was giving evidence to the tribunal was “procedurally unfair”.

He sought orders which would have the screen before Mr Fulton set up to allow lawyers representing all parties to see Mr Fulton while he was giving evidence.

In dismissing Mr Scappaticci’s application for leave to bring a judicial review challenge, the president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said the issue was a matter for the tribunal itself.

The tribunal was set up to inquire into suggestions that gardaí or other employees of the State colluded in the fatal shootings of RUC Chief Supt Harry Breen and RUC Supt Robert Buchanan in March 1989. Mr Fulton began giving evidence to the tribunal on Wednesday.

Mr Scappaticci also sought to prevent the tribunal proceeding with Mr Fulton’s evidence until that evidence was provided in a manner fair to Mr Scappaticci.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Kearns was told the screen around Mr Fulton was set up so that he could not be seen by the public. Only the lawyer asking Mr Fulton questions, the chairman of the tribunal, and tribunal staff were able to see the witness.

Lawyers representing Mr Scappaticci argued that allowing Mr Fulton to give his evidence in that manner was unnecessary, unduly restrictive and ignored the rights of lawyers to see the witness.

The court was told that, in his statement to the tribunal, Mr Fulton had made serious allegations of criminal participation against Mr Scappaticci who had been given representation at the tribunal as his character may be impugned by evidence given by Mr Fulton.

In an affidavit, Michael Flanigan, a solicitor acting for Mr Scappaticci, said his client disputed the allegations against him. Mr Fulton’s credibility is a central issue in the proceedings and there was no reason to screen Mr Fulton from other parties’ lawyers.

Mr Fulton had not objected to being seen by legal representatives from various interested parties, he added. The tribunal could sit in a court where appropriate screening would be set up allowing lawyers see Mr Fulton while he was giving his evidence, he added.