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New lead prosecutor in murder case is 'unprecedented' move

By Michael Donnelly

A new lead prosecutor has been granted permission to take over a murder case following the resignation of his predecessor in what was described as a "highly unusual and unprecedented" move.

As a result, the Crown Court case against a Belfast man, his wife and brother on charges arising from the murder of 31-year-old Christopher Mackin five years ago has been adjourned until after the Easter break.

Mr Justice Treacy was told yesterday that lead prosecutor Terence Mooney QC has pulled out of the case "for professional reasons". Mr Frank O'Donoghue QC told the Crown Court that he had been asked by the Director of Public Prosecutions to take over as chief prosecutor in the case against Charles Stephen Valliday (45), his 40-year-old wife Julie Ann, and Valliday's brother, James John Valliday (51).

Mr and Mrs Valliday, originally from Powerscourt Place, Belfast, deny murder and possessing weapons and drugs. James Valliday, from Springfield Meadows, Belfast, denies assisting offenders.

Applying for the adjournment, Mr O'Donoghue said he had been brought in "completely cold" and asked for some time to review the case.

Earlier he had told the court that Mr Mooney, the previous lead prosecution counsel had, as he understood it, reached the conclusion that he could no longer act in that capacity and had informed the Public Prosecution Service.

Mr O'Donoghue said the Director later explained to him that Mr Mooney had "come out of the case for professional reasons".

Agreeing to the adjournment until next month, Mr Justice Treacy said it was "an unusual, and as indicated as Counsel observed, an unprecedented move".

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