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Lawyers for family of joyrider fatally shot by police in stolen car request officer’s records

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 18/06/2016

Steven Colwell
Steven Colwell

Police medical records on an officer who shot the driver of a stolen car should be handed to lawyers for the dead man's family, a coroner's court has heard.

Steven Colwell died aged 23 in April 2006 after police fired on a BMW that failed to stop at a checkpoint in Ballynahinch, Co Down.

The policeman who shot him, known only as Officer O, was accused of critically flawed judgment by former police ombudsman Al Hutchinson, who reviewed the case.

Karen Quinlivan QC, representing the next of kin, called for access to the same occupational health notes provided to a senior doctor who assessed Officer O's fitness for frontline duty. The legal team hope to instruct their own medical expert to conduct a review, a preliminary hearing at Belfast's Laganside House was told. Ms Quinlivan said: "Our purpose would be to review, through an expert, the same material that Dr (Michael) Curran reviewed.

"Our expert requires the same access to anything Dr Curran had access to."

The barrister offered assurances that the notes would be held at a secure location in her instructing solicitor's office and said lawyers would "obey rules" regarding any sensitive matters.

She also requested access to official records detailing Officer O's training in the use of firearms, hard stops and vehicle checkpoints, adding: "We are anxious to see Officer O's training file. We are conscious that he had a significant period of absence prior to this and we want to know what steps the PSNI took in terms of re-training."

Mr Colwell was the driver of a stolen car which appeared to be trying to evade a vehicle checkpoint and had apparently ignored commands to stop.

Mark Mulholland QC, for Officer O, highlighted human rights issues, particularly around the right to privacy.

But counsel for the coroner, next of kin and Officer O agreed to consult to formulate a way forward on the contentious matter.

Scheduling another preliminary hearing for September, Coroner Joe McCrisken warned legal representatives to ensure they had read all the papers in the case.

"It is not an excuse I will accept, if someone says they have not had time to read the papers," Coroner McCrisken said. "You will have had all summer to read them."

The full inquest has been listed for November.

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