Brother of Ismay murder accused refused to give evidence due to dissident threat, court told
A Belfast man refused to give evidence at his brother's murder trial after claiming he was threatened by dissident Republicans, a court heard on Tuesday.
Peter Robinson appeared at Belfast Crown Court earlier this week where his 48-year old brother Christopher is currently on trial for murdering prison officer Adrian Ismay in March 2016.
The 52-year old father of three died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van close to his east Belfast home.
From Aspen Park in Poleglass, Christopher Robinson has been charged with murdering Mr Ismay, possessing an improvised explosive device and providing money or property for the purposes of terrorism. He has denied all the charges against him.
The accused's brother Peter Robinson was ordered to appear at the hearing on Monday, and after swearing on the Bible, he refused to give evidence or answer any of the four questions posed to him by a Crown barrister, on the grounds he may incriminate himself.
He also made the case that he would not be prepared to give evidence at the trial due to protecting his family as he was in fear of a pipe bomb attack.
At the time of the murder, Peter Robinson worked at a youth hostel in west Belfast and was due to answer questions about claims he disabled the CCTV system the night before the bomb exploded and told a colleague 'our Christy is calling.'
It's the Crown's case that a red Citroen C3 containing the bomb was driven by Christopher Robinson to Mr Ismay's Hillsborough Drive home - the same make and model Peter Robinson drove to work hours before the device exploded.
In the aftermath of the deadly bomb attack in east Belfast, both brothers were arrested and treated as suspects.
During his time in custody, Peter Robinson refused to answer questions but gave a pre-prepared statement to police - and it is the contents of that statement which were the subject of an application made to trial judge Mr Justice McAlinden earlier today.
While the Crown wanted the statement to be included as evidence, this suggestion was opposed by the defence.
After listening to submissions from the Crown and defence, Mr Justice McAlinden ruled that the statement should not be admitted as evidence.
Prior to his ruling, the Judge was told that after Peter Robinson was visited by police and told he was no longer being treated as a suspect, he was asked to give evidence at the trial.
However, the accused's brother made the case he received a threat from who he believed to be dissident republicans who warned him not to give evidence in the trial.
Expressing concerns for his own welfare and the safety of his family, the Belfast man spoke of a 'fear of a pipe bomb being thrown through the living room window of his home.'
While the Crown argued that the inclusion of Mr Robinson's evidence was in the interests of justice, Christopher Robinson's barrister Arthur Harvey QC questioned why such an important emphasis was now being placed on the statement.
Saying "the way this has been dealt with has been unusual", Mr Harvey said: "It would appear consideration was not given to this particular aspect until some considerable time after the defendant was arrested and after the witness has been arrested and after the defendant has been returned for trial, without any reliance upon this evidence."
In his ruling, Mr Justice McAlinden spoke of the circumstances in which Peter Robinson made the statement, which he noted were at a time when Mr Robinson was "suspected of being involved in the placing of a bomb under the vehicle of Mr Adrian Ismay" and which caused the Judge to question his motivation.
Saying Peter Robinson had "changed his tune" regarding the reasons he didn't want to give evidence - from being in fear from dissidents to potentially incriminating himself - Mr Justice McAlinden said this was "a matter that weights heavily on my mind."
He then concluded: "This statement should not be admitted in this criminal trial."
Belfast Telegraph Digital