Belfast Telegraph

Latest twist in checkpoint inquest

The High Court may have to rule again on whether sensitive medical evidence about a policeman who shot a man dead in Northern Ireland is made public, an inquest has heard.

Steven Colwell, 23, failed to stop at a checkpoint on April 16 2006 in Ballynahinch, Co Down.

Mr Justice John Gillen has already decided that material held by the police's occupational health department should not be given to third parties because of legal issues surrounding a request for the material from Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson.

The ombudsman found that the actions of the policeman in shooting Mr Colwell were "critically flawed".

Senior Coroner John Leckey told the short Belfast preliminary hearing: "Sensitive and non-sensitive material will be provided by the Police Ombudsman to me and to Mr (Kevin) O'Hare (who represents the officer) by April 13 and following that I will have to convene a preliminary hearing to consider submissions about how the other legal representatives may participate in the process."

Details of the officer's medical and personnel history were not included in Thursday's ombudsman report into Steven Colwell's death. The man from Main Street, Cullybackey, Co Antrim, suffered a bullet wound to the chest at Church Street, Ballynahinch.

The PSNI had agreed to hand over medical and personnel files to investigators, but the officer mounted a successful High Court action to prevent that happening. But they were referred to in a judgment issued on it by Mr Justice Gillen in May 2008.

Lawyer for the coroner Peter Coll addressed the inquest.

"The way forward would be for the materials to be provided and if necessary for a further hearing," he said. "It would be useful if Officer O and the PSNI had clarified what their attitude was to the current injunction, if it may be incumbent upon the chief constable to go back to the High Court and seek to have that varied. You would imagine that the court would be reluctant to see any of its orders cut across the inquest process."

Another hearing of the inquest will be scheduled for May.

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