Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Shooting: officers may get anonymity at inquest

Serving and non-serving police officers who will be called to give evidence during the inquest into the first fatal shooting by the PSNI five years ago could receive anonymity.

Yesterday, during a preliminary hearing into the death of Neil McConville (21) — who was shot dead by police after he tried to drive away from officers who had stopped his car outside Lisburn on April 29, 2003 — Coroner Suzanne Anderson told legal representatives that any officer who wanted anonymity or screening would have to apply in writing.

Counsel for the police officers, Dorcas Crawford, said she would consult her clients to consider which, if any, requested screening or anonymity.

Mr McConville (below) died after he was shot three times by a police officer who feared he would drive over a colleague who had been knocked down by the car.

Police had stopped the vehicle because they suspected his passenger, David Somers — who is now in prison for the murder of north Belfast man David Barnes — was preparing to shoot another man.

An unloaded sawn-off shotgun was found in the Vauxhall Cavalier.

In 2007, the Police Ombudsman launched an investigation into the 21-year-old Bleary man’s death and cleared the officer involved in the shooting.

However the investigation also uncovered that critical information about the fatal shooting had been deleted from a police computer before former Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, could see it.

In a statement following the release of her report, Mrs O’Loan was critical of the police operation and of several police officers, including an Assistant Chief Constable, who she claimed tried to stop her investigators from getting access to intelligence about the case.

At yesterday’s hearing the Coroner said she was of the opinion that the inquest “must have a wider scope” because of the circumstances surrounding Mr McConville’s death and would require a jury.

A date has yet to be set for the inquest.

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