A BELFAST man denies attempting to steal a ‘Hetty’ Hoover from Tesco at Springhill in Bangor. #CourtCorner




POLICE failed yesterday in a bid to halt a High Court action by seven men acquitted of a paramilitary attack on a joint police and British army patrol in Belfast 21 years ago.

A judge refused to dismiss the claim for damages after ruling that a delay in issuing proceedings has not prejudiced the defendant. A test case brought by Danny Petticrew, one of the so-called Ballymurphy Seven, will now proceed to a full trial. Mr Petticrew (37) is seeking compensation for wrongful detention, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution over a bomb attack on an RUC and military patrol near the city’s Springfield Road in August 1991.

The West Belfast man, then aged 17, was taken to Castlereagh Holding (interrogation) Centre and, along with his co – accused, were later charged with offences including attempted murder. He was held in custody from April 1992 until September 1994 nearly two & half years. The case against him was discharged at trial on the basis that alleged admissions could not be used in evidence against him. Mr Petticrew claims his arrest was deliberately delayed and, because of his youth and vulnerability, he was unable to withstand questioning during repeated police interviews. He said that officers knew he was making false, unreliable and involuntary statements.

Lawyers for the chief constable applied to have the civil action thrown out due to the delay in bringing it. But Mr Justice Gillen yesterday refused their appeal against a decision not to grant the application. He accepted there had been ” inexcusable and inordinate delay ” in bring the case. However, the judge held that available transcripts from the original criminal trial, togeather with legal notes, meant defendant witnesses were in no more difficult a position now than if the claim had been brought in 1994.

” I am conscious that the allegations in this case amount to serious charges against persons and authorities within the state who are bound by laws publicly made and administered in the courts,” Mr Justice Gillen said. ” They amount to an assault on the rule of law if they are true and an affront to public  conscience. ” In those circumstances courts should be particularly cautious before driving from the seat of judgement those who wish to litigate such matters.”

Dismissing the police application, the judge said: ” The balance of justice lies in allowing such matters to proceed to trail if at all possible, so long of course as the defendant is not deprived of any realistic chance of defending the allegations due to the delay.” Outside the court Mr Petticrew expressed satisfaction that the actions brought by him and his six co-accused will go ahead. ” Something that happened 21 years ago is still having a massive effect on our lives today,” he said.


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