Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone man loses appeal over informer recruitment claims

An ex-prisoner from Northern Ireland who claims he was "hunted" abroad by police in a failed bid to recruit him as an informer has lost his legal action against the Chief Constable.

Co Tyrone man Brian Sheridan was appealing a failed challenge over alleged approaches in Norway and Northern Ireland to become a covert human intelligence source.

The 40-year-old, who served a jailed sentence after being caught in a car with guns in 2011, claimed a lack of a proper code of practice rendered the activity unlawful.

But the Court of Appeal backed a previous ruling that any advances were covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

Lord Justice Stephens said: "That means that it is plain that the approaches were regulated and it is plain that the code does apply."

A separate case against the Police Ombudsman for rejecting a complaint about the officer's actions was also dismissed.

In 2013 Sheridan, from Blackwatertown, pleaded guilty to weapons offences linked to the recovery of rifles and handguns from a Citroen Xantia stopped by police in Keady, Armagh.

He has always denied press reports that he was a member of the Real IRA or any other outlawed organisation, the court heard.

Following his release from prison he went on holiday to Oslo with his partner in February 2015.

In a statement he described being left scared and confused after three officers repeatedly approached him, one introducing himself as 'Fergie' and asked to speak to him.

Sheridan said he told the men to leave him alone, but was targeted again at a vehicle checkpoint in Armagh in October of that year.

He claimed one of the men involved in that unwanted roadside approach was Fergie.

"This caused me to feel a degree of terror," he stated.

"It was as if I was being hunted in different countries by this man."

Living in an area of continued paramilitary activity, Sheridan insisted anyone seen to be in contact with the police is potentially at risk.

"I strongly believe that those who are thought to be 'touts' are at serious risk of harm," he added.

His lawyers argued that there had been a breach of his rights to life and privacy under European law.

It was further contended that the Ombudsman failed to properly investigate his grievances before reaching a decision in February 2016.

Earlier this year the High Court accepted PSNI officers were probably engaged in a process of seeking to persuade Sherian to become a covert human intelligence source.

But a judge held that any activity was regulated by RIPA, and stayed proceedings against the Police Ombudsman on the basis that the correct forum was by complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal.

Upholding that decision as well, Lord Justice Stephens confirmed: "We do not discern anything inappropriate in him so doing, and we dismiss the appeal against that part of the learned judge's order." ends

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