Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Coroner considers High Court bid

Senior coroner John Leckey agreed to an application by a legal representative after she objected to prison wardens giving evidence from behind screens over fears for their safety

A coroner investigating the death of a car driver shot by police may go to the High Court to have restrictions surrounding the officer's medical history lifted.

Steven Colwell, 23, was killed in a stolen car in April 2006 after he apparently tried to escape a checkpoint in Ballynahinch, Co Down.

The policeman who shot him, Officer O, was accused of critically flawed judgment by former Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson, who reviewed the case.

Officer O mounted a successful legal action to have his police medical files withheld from the Ombudsman's investigators.

Senior coroner John Leckey has already seen the records but has not shared them with other parties to the inquest, including Colwell's family's legal team, because of the High Court injunction.

"Before I could have the material released to you in redacted form, unless there is a voluntary concession by the officer, I would have to go to the High Court and make an application to Mr Justice Gillen," he said.

He is awaiting the updated views of Officer O on whether he will co-operate with a request to have him examined for the inquest by a medical consultant and a wider review of his fitness. Without that co-operation, Mr Leckey will have to decide whether the medical records are of sufficient importance in the case to warrant an application to the High Court asking that he be allowed to distribute the information more widely.

"The material produced already crosses a potentially relevant threshold," he said, adding it remained to be determined whether it was of core importance to the inquest.

The Ombudsman's report said there were grave concerns whether the officer was suitable for deployment to front line duties and added the policeman's decision to fire two shots created a significant risk of further casualties.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has decided not to bring charges. The case was adjourned to a date to be fixed.

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