Irish Republican News · August 8, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Dismay at Ombudsman’s report on forensic interference

The North’s Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O’Loan, has denied that the PSNI police pressurised a forensic scientist into acting improperly.

Her inquiry follows concern arising from a court case against Noel Abernathy, charged with a gun attack during the British general election in 2001.

A forensic scientist, Ann Irwin, was asked to examine the suspect’s clothes for evidence of a gun discharge even though the clothes had clearly not been preserved against contamination. When she refused, the PSNI insisted she go ahead with the test.

The scientist later said in court she was being asked to carry out work which she could not properly do. She also made serious allegations of interference by the PSNI (and RUC) in the gathering, analysis and presentation of results in forensic evidence over the last seven years.

However, the Ombudsman found nothing improper about this, and added that the scientist had not been asked to provide false evidence in the non-jury court.

Mrs O’Loan, however, was scathing in her criticism of the police investigation for not establishing a forensic strategy. “Evidence was left exposed to the elements overnight, and to the possibility of loss of forensic value.”

She also said that a scenes of crime officer did not conduct a thorough forensic examination. “He left the scene after 50 minutes without having undertaken a full forensic examination, taken photographs or secured any evidence.”

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Policing and Justice, North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly has expressed surprise at the findings.

“The Abernathy case was not the first time that such concerns have been expressed about both the independence and veracity of forensic evidence used in Diplock court cases.

“The Forensic Science Agency is located inside a PSNI complex. Other cases have also proven that both the RUC and PSNI are guilty of fabricating and manipulating forensic evidence. There is a pattern of Special Branch interference in the due process and that pattern is against a background of miscarriages of justice.

“Unfortunately this report from the Office of the Police Ombudsman does nothing to assuage these concerns. The pattern of abuse by Special Branch to obtain Diplock court convictions, by hook or by crook, continues to pervade and infect the criminal justice system and remains to be rectified.”

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© 2004 Irish Republican News