Belfast Telegraph

Anonymity to officers in case of man shot dead by police 'futile', court hears

By Alan Erwin

Granting anonymity to officers at an inquest into the death of a man shot dead by police as he drove a stolen car is "futile", the High Court heard today.

A judge was told the family of Steven Colwell already know the names of PSNI members at the scene of the fatal shooting in Ballynahinch, Co Down 11 years ago.

Legal challenges by two officers seeking to have their identities kept completely secret were adjourned following the development.

The coroner overseeing proceedings is now expected to re-examine his decisions on anonymity in the case.

Mr Colwell, a 23-year-old father of one, was killed after failing to stop at a checkpoint in April 2006.

A Police Ombudsman investigation concluded that the actions of the officer who fired the fatal shot were critically flawed - a finding rejected by the body representing rank and file members of the force.

As the inquest into Mr Colwell's death opened in Belfast, that officer was granted anonymity. He is to be referred to as Officer O.

But judicial review proceedings were launched by two PSNI colleagues over decisions about their identities at the tribunal.

Officer P was refused both anonymity and screening, while Officer Q was granted anonymity but denied screening for the inquest.

Their lawyers were set to argue that the coroner's decision was wrong and puts their safety at risk.

However, Mrs Justice Keegan was told the Colwell family know each of the officers' names.

Stephen Ritchie, appearing for the applicants, suggested the coroner may have to make a fresh assessment.

"If the names they have is correct (the anonymity) is now worthless," Mr Ritchie said.

Karen Quinlivan QC, for the Colwell family, told the court her clients have known the officers' names for years.

"It appears to us this application is futile," she contended.

"This is a case in which the ship has sailed."

Following further discussion it was confirmed that challenges are to be adjourned by agreement.

Counsel for the coroner said he will update his decision on anonymity based on the new information.

Mrs Justice Keegan concluded: "These are important and sensitive proceedings. I will facilitate a (further) hearing if need be at short notice."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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