US tapes illegally accessed by PSNI to pursue pensioner


Alleged evidence against veteran republican Ivor Bell has been unlawfully obtained from America in breach of an international treaty, a court has heard.

Mr Bell’s lawyer said the material obtained from the Boston College history project should be excluded from a hearing to decide if the 79-year-old should stand trial.

Mr Bell faces charges of in connection with the death of Jean McConville, who was killed in 1972 after being accused of being an IRA informer.

The case against Mr Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College as part of a project with IRA members and loyalists about their roles in the conflict.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered that the tapes should be handed over to British state forces. It is alleged that Mr Bell is one of the Boston interviewees based on a voice analysis.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that a US Federal Court judge had ordered disclosure of interviews in the case was to be limited to only material relating to the death of Jean McConville. Defence lawyer Peter Corrigan argued that the tapes handed over to the PSNI police went beyond those restrictions. He is attempting to have the case thrown out.

“That evidence has been unlawfully obtained and should be excluded,” he said. He told the court that material put to Br Bell during PSNI interrogations was “way beyond” the Jean McConville case. “It was unfairly obtained and in clear contravention of an international treaty.”

Meanwhile, republican Anthony McIntyre, who was a lead researcher in the project, is also battling an attempt to imprison him using a similar “fishing” process of gathering possible evidence from the interviews.

Lawyers for Mr McIntyre have pointed to a series of errors in the PSNI’s efforts to gain access to the tapes made by him at Boston College.

Senior judges in Belfast have now ordered the PSNI and Crown prosecutors to clarify how an International Letter of Request (ILOR) for the material wrongly included an erroneous conviction for armed robbery and even blamed him for a bomb attack in which he was actually a victim.

With the case adjourned until September, the PSNI members due to travel to Boston this week as part of a separate inquiry will not yet be able to take possession of his recordings.

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