Omagh trial to continue
The non-jury trial of Armagh man Sean Hoey for the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bomb and other attacks is set to continue despite a defence attempt to have the case thrown out because of “shortcomings, lies and mysteries”.
Lawyer Orlando Pownall QC pointed to the lack of evidence to back the Crown claim that Mr Hoey made the timers used in the Omagh bomb and other attacks.
He pointed to “a wholesale lack of care” taken by scenes of crime officers, police, and forensic labs. Mr Pownall said this was of particular concern because of its potential to impact on DNA results being used in this case.
Mr Pownall went on to describe suspicious tampering with evidence, such as the appearance of tape on evidence after it was examined in a forensic lab in the North of Ireland. It has never been explained how that could have happened.
He also called for the evidence of two witnesses to be excluded. after scenes of crime officer Fiona Cooper and Detective Chief Inspector Philip Marshall had been shown to lie under oath.
While Mr Pownall said DNA was the foundation stone of the prosecution case, he said prosecution experts had been shown to “differ fundamentally” in their interpretation of results.
He also pointed out that low copy number DNA, the testing technique used in the case, was still not accepted for evidential purposes in the majority of countries worldwide.
Justice Weir refused the application to stop the trial. He said the defence had failed to show “that the evidence was so discredited or so intrinsically weak that it could not support a conviction”.
However, the judge threw out two of the 58 charges, relating to an attack in Banbridge, County Down two weeks prior to the Omagh bombing, and another attack on members of the British Crown forces.
Earlier the prosecution completed their case, ending with the extraordinary revelation that swabs used to test DNA in the case were likely contaminated.
It was revealed that at the forensic lab where some exhibits were examined, four out of five swabs in a batch were contaminated.
The British Crown forensic science service has since changed its supplier - but it was admitted that it was “a problem” when they were looking at some items in this case.
Dr Jonathon Whitaker, a forensic scientist, insisted he was still 100% certain of his findings. The defence lawyer, Orlando Pownall QC, said that was “wishful thinking”.
The trial is adjourned until the 9th of January next when the case for the defence gets underway.