Belfast Telegraph

Accused warned as Stephen Carroll murder trial is adjourned

By Deborah McAleese

A woman charged in connection with the murder of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll has been warned by a senior judge that she may have to defend herself after sacking her legal team the night before her trial was due to begin.

Lord Justice Girvan was forced to adjourn the murder trial at the last minute yesterday when he was advised that the mother of one of the alleged murderers – who is charged with perverting the course of justice by giving false information to police and removing a computer from her house – was requesting new defence lawyers.

Raising concerns over the request made by Sharon Wootton, the judge said: “We are dealing with charges that relate to loss of life. Public funding in such cases can be very substantial.

“It is right that the court take account of public interest to ensure that public money is not wasted ... The defendant may have to represent herself.”

Sitting in the dock beside Wootton at Belfast Crown Court were her 20-year-old son, John Paul Wootton, and former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville (40), who are charged with murdering Constable Carroll in Craigavon in March 2009.

The 48-year-old policeman’s wife Kate Carroll and her son Shane were in court yesterday for what they expected to be the first day of trial.

The court was told that on Tuesday night Wootton (39), from Lurgan, had asked a new legal firm to represent her as there had been a “break down in confidence” between her and her legal representatives.

Lord Justice Girvan said that he will decide tomorrow if he will allow Wootton to hire a new legal team.

He warned that the trial will proceed on January 9 “one way or another”.

Background

Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead in Craigavon while responding to an emergency call on March 9, 2009, just days after two soldiers were killed at Massereene barracks in Antrim. The Continuity IRA admitted responsibility for the shooting.

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