Belfast Telegraph

Coroner wants to inject 'adrenaline' into holding of inquest for Steven Colwell

A coroner has said he wants to inject some "adrenaline" into the process of holding an inquest for a man shot dead by police 10 years ago.

Steven Colwell, 23, died in April 2006 after police fired on the BMW which failed to stop at a checkpoint in Ballynahinch, Co Down.

The policeman who shot Mr Colwell, known only as Officer O, was accused of critically flawed judgment following an investigation by former police ombudsman Al Hutchinson.

At a preliminary hearing, Judge Neil Rafferty, who has recently been appointed to oversee the controversial case, said he was anxious to make progress.

He told Belfast's Laganside Court: "I am keen to hear this and to inject some adrenaline into the process."

A full inquest is expected to take place at some point next spring and will last between four and six weeks.

However a start date and venue have yet to be confirmed and the question of whether the case will be heard before a jury has also not been addressed.

Judge Rafferty added: "I am very keen to get this inquest up and running as soon as possible."

Meanwhile, a barrister representing the Colwell family said his relatives have been requesting access to the court papers for months.

While legal teams have been allowed to see the documents, lawyers have been barred from discussing their content because of ongoing issues with redactions, the court was told.

Karen Quinlivin QC argued that the family was entitled to see them.

She said: " They are interested in reading the papers. They are very motivated and have been asking for this since September."

Ms Quinlivin told the court they were also still waiting for Officer O's training records and information about PSNI policy regarding firearms training.

She added: "Officer O had been on long-term sick leave and was back for a relatively short period of time."

Ms Quinlivin also said the family objected to the inquest being held in a court outside Belfast.

Earlier, the court was told the disclosure of documentation was very well advanced.

Peter Coll, representing the coroner, said a "large amount of papers" had been gathered and created during the course of the Ombudsman's investigation.

He said 35 folders of information had been handed to the interested parties but acknowledged that a number of others containing more sensitive material have yet to be released.

The court will also receive video material including CCTV footage of the scene shortly after the incident taken from a police helicopter, as well as other CCTV images and scene photographs.

Mr Coll said: "The material is very voluminous but that is not surprising in a complex case of this nature."

Meanwhile, the court was told the Colwell family objected to the inquest being held outside Belfast.

Ms Quinlivin said: "The family think if it is held outside Belfast they won't be able to attend and that's quite a significant issue. They have been in attendance regularly and have followed the case assiduously."

The case has been adjourned until January 10.


From Belfast Telegraph