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Northern Bank suspect loses appeal

By Chris Thornton

The man accused of robbing the Northern Bank has lost his House of Lords case against the PSNI.

Christopher Ward (26) brought a challenge because police had been allowed extra time to detain and question him after he and his lawyer were excluded from a hearing.

But a ruling released yesterday by the Law Lords indicated that police had a legitimate reason for asking Ward to be kept out of the hearing for ten minutes.

Ward, a Northern Bank worker from Colinmill, Poleglass, is currently awaiting trial for allegedly taking part in the £26.5 million raid that hit the bank's Belfast headquarters in December 2004.

Ward has claimed that he was taken hostage and was acting under duress when he was seen carrying a hold-all containing over £1m out of the bank.

He was arrested on November 29, 2005 for questioning as a suspect and police were allowed to extend his detention over a week after a series of court hearings.

He was the first person in Northern Ireland to be held without charge for seven days under new legislation which came into force shortly before he was arrested.

During Ward's final detention hearing, police told the judge that they had five topics they still wanted to question him about.

The judge asked what the topics were, and agreed to exclude Ward and his solicitor from the hearing while a police superintendent revealed them to him.

The Law Lords said the judge was acting in Ward's interests in finding out whether the police were genuinely seeking to interview him about new topics.

They said there is "no rule of law which requires the police to reveal to a suspect the questions that they wish to put to him while he is being interviewed".

"Nor are they required to reveal in advance the topics that they wish to cover, even in the most general terms, in the course of an interview."

They added: "The interview must be conducted fairly. But advance notice of the topics to be covered is not a pre-requisite of fairness."

Ward denies taking part in the robbery, which has been blamed on the IRA.

He is due to go on trial next September and currently remains free on bail.

Belfast Telegraph


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