A man who was serving a 14-year jail term for attacking a PSNI station with a mortar rocket was acquitted of the attack on Friday.
At Belfast Crown Court, Justice McCloskey said that the only evidence presented in the case -- a spot of blood found on a jumper wrestled from the attacker as he escaped -- was insufficient.
Delivering his judgement in court the judge said he had evaluated the single piece of evidence against Gary Jones and had concluded that “this evidence does not point in a single direction”.
The attack took place on July 21 1998.
In 2006, then Mr Justice Morgan, now the Lord Chief Justice, convicted Jones of the attack and jailed him for 14 years in a sitting of a Diplock no-jury court.
That was quashed on appeal and a retrial ordered.
During the retrial which began on September 14, also in the absence of a jury, Justice McCloskey said the blood-stained jumper was the only piece of evidence against Jones after extensive forensic examinations of the van, a yellow hard hat, a denim jacket and the bomb itself had yielded no further evidence or connections to Jones.
Giving evidence to the court during the trial, senior forensic scientist Margaret Boyce said the spot could have come to be there by primary contact between Jones and the jumper, airborne transmission of the blood, direct contact between the jumper and blood-stained source or secondary contact.
She said she considered the proposition of secondary contact to be the least likely but added that the other three were as likely as each other.
The judge concluded there was “but a single piece of circumstantial evidence” on which the Crown case rested but that having evaluated it, along with taking into account Jones’ case, “in my view the prosecution have failed to establish that it yields one conclusion only viz. the finding that the fleeing male was the defendant”.
Justice McCloskey said that having come to those conclusions, “the verdict must be one of not guilty”.
* A Garda Chief Superintendant has refused to tell the Special Criminal Court the name of an informer who he claims provided intelligence implicating three men in IRA activities.
Chief Superintendant Michael O’Sullivan told the non-jury court in Dublin that his information was gleaned from different “strands”, which included information arising out of meetings with other gardai, operational information from the PSNI and information provided by a “confidential and reliable source”.
He said that he believed the informer in question had no previous convictions, but conceded that he had not checked the accuracy of this nor had he met the informant or seen any sworn documents sworn by the informer.
The trial continues in front of the three-judge court, with Justice Paul Butler presiding.