Belfast Telegraph

PSNI firearms trainer will give evidence at police killing inquest

By Cate McCurry

A weapons expert is to be called to give evidence at an inquest into the controversial killing of a man who was shot dead by a police officer after he failed to stop at a checkpoint in Co Down.

Steven Colwell (23), the driver of a stolen BMW, died at the scene in Ballynahinch on Easter Sunday 2006.

He was shot twice by a police officer who was attempting to stop the car.

The PSNI man, known as 'Officer O', was accused of displaying "critically flawed" judgment by the Police Ombudsman.

Mr Colwell, a father-of-one from the Shankill area of Belfast, had been high on drugs while driving a car taken during a creeper-style burglary and was trying to avoid the checkpoint mounted outside Ballynahinch PSNI station when he was shot dead.

The officer said that he had no other option but to shoot, believing his life and the lives of others including a baby were in danger.

At a preliminary hearing at Dungannon courthouse yesterday, Judge Neil Rafferty, who was appointed last year to oversee the case, said that more information was needed about PSNI firearms training.

While discussing information regarding training records of the three officers who were at the scene, Judge Rafferty said: "If there were any issues with training we need to find out if those issues still exist in the modern context and has it been addressed.

"That's really what I want."

The judge requested that a representative who trains specialised officers should be called to give evidence to address any issues that may be identified as a "deficit".

"It seems to me that a live witness from the firearms training branch could be of great assistance. We want to know the level of training for the officers, particularly Officer O, and what is the renewal training," he added.

The court heard that Officer O had been off on long-term sick leave, and the judge queried whether refresher training was provided within the PSNI policies.

A barrister for the PSNI said that these issues can be addressed.

"This includes the level of training they had and any refresher course, as well as the policies that existed at the time," the barrister said.

"We will ensure all the issues highlighted will be dealt with."

Judge Rafferty also warned legal representatives that matters will not be "allowed to drift" ahead of the full inquest.

In further discussions ahead of the inquest scheduled for September 4, a legal representative for the PSNI also addressed the Public Interest Immunity (PII) redactions.

He assured the court that the PII will not delay the start of the proceedings.

"Proposed redactions will be kept to an absolute minimum," he added.

Further preliminary hearings have been scheduled for over the summer months.

The inquest is expected to last up to four weeks.

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