The convictions against the Craigavon Two are on even shakier ground after new details about key evidence was made public.
Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton are the subject of an ongoing miscarriage of justice campaign after they were wrongly convicted of a Continuity IRA attack in Craigavon in March 2009, in which a member of the PSNI was killed.
It emerged this week that the gun allegedly used in the attack was identified based only on remarks made by a vulnerable person following three illegal interrogations.
Papers from a European court case reveal that the person in question, referred to as ‘RE’, should not have been questioned in the absence of an appropriate adult. It also appears that a supposedly private conversation between ‘RE’ and his lawyer was illegally spied upon.
‘RE’ was initially charged with withholding information about the attack, but these charges were subsequently dropped.
The details only emerged after a case was taken against the British government over concerns that the PSNI was carrying out surveillance of conversations between ‘RE’ and his lawyer.
It emerged that man was arrested and interrogated three times in the weeks after the attack. Court papers reveal that before being seen by a lawyer or appropriate adult, the man innocently asked to speak to the PSNI “off the record”.
His lawyers brought a separate case on his behalf to the European Court which this week found that secret surveillance carried out on lawyers and their clients is in breach of European law.
During the first two periods of interrogation his lawyer received assurances that consultations would not be subject to covert surveillance. During a third arrest the PSNI refused to give an assurance.
The court ruling found that the man’s Article Eight rights under the European Court of Human Rights had been violated.
Nichola Harte, of Harte, Coyle, Collins Solicitors, who represented ‘RE’, said the ruling has wider implications.
“The European Court criticised the inadequate procedures currently in place in Northern Ireland for the handling, use, storage and destruction of information obtained from covert surveillance of legal consultations,” she said.
“The police arrangements were and continue to be a violation of the right to respect for private life.
“This landmark European ruling has implications for all legal consultations in police stations if subjected to covert surveillance.”
Brendan McConville’s lawyer Darragh Mackin, of KRW Law, has written to Crown prosecutors requesting notes taken during interrogations of ‘RE’ and asking what happened to the charges levelled against him.