A top human rights lawyer was threatened with arrest on the eve of the opening of the trial this week of republican Colin Duffy, one of his highest profile clients.
Peter Corrigan, a partner in the Kevin Winters law firm, was ordered to present himself at Antrim Police Station for arrest at the weekend. He was told he would be arrested over allegations that he engaged in “money laundering” for another republican client on an unrelated case. However, a late night phone call subsequently indicated his planned arrest had been “postponed”.
Nevertheless, there is a clear intimidatory aspect to the accusations. Mr Duffy has been a frequent target for the police in the North of Ireland and he has been the victim of frequent harassment, false imprisonment as well as a full-blown miscarriage of justice. His former lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, was assassinated by loyalists in 1999 following death threats against her by the then RUC police.
Mr Corrigan said the actions of the PSNI had dragged his reputation “through the mud”.
“I have never taken a penny from a client and never would,” he said. “Anyone can look at my accounts at any time.
“I have no interest in money - it is not what motivates me in the course of my work.”
Mr Winters said the planned arrest of his business partner, days before the start of a high-profile trial, represented “oppression of the worst kind”.
“Our firm is a respectable and respected firm and as a practice we deeply resent any attack on Peter Corrigan’s integrity, which is exemplary,” he said.
Mr Corrigan was also supported by well-known government barrister Orlando Pownall, who said he had acted only as a conduit for the payment of a fine. He described the behaviour of the PSNI in relation toMr Corrigan as”reprehensible”.
After a delay of over two and a half years, Mr Duffy and Tyrone man Brian Shivers went on trial this Monday on charges linked to a ‘Real IRA’ attack in 2009.
The Crown prosecution’s case against Mr Duffy is expected to centre on soil-sample evidence which, it is claimed, links him to the incident, and DNA evidence matching Mr Duffy’s profile which is said to have been recovered from a car used in the attack.
The prosecution no longer alleges that Mr Duffy was involved in shooting the soldiers, making only the claim that a ‘joint enterprise’ existed involving the Lurgan man.
His legal team argued this week that the prosecution was leaving open the possibility of several scenarios involving Mr Duffy, without making specific accusations which could be defended against.
The non-jury (Diplock) trial is underway at Antrim Crown Court and is expected to last several weeks.