Decision on Jean McConville case is due next month
A final decision on whether to prosecute an alleged former IRA commander in connection with the murder of disappeared Jean McConville is to be made in three weeks, a judge ordered.
The deadline was imposed as Ivor Bell's lawyer argued that proceedings should be halted because of delays in advancing the case.
Bell (78), from Andersonstown, Belfast, was arrested in March last year and charged with paramilitary membership and aiding and abetting the notorious murder.
The mother-of-10 was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
The case against Bell centres on an interview he gave to US researchers from Boston College. Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of participants, a US court ordered the tapes to be handed over to the PSNI last year.
Bell, who yesterday appeared before Belfast Magistrates Court for a progress report, denies any role in the murder, claiming he was not in the city at the time.
A prosecution lawyer told district judge George Conner he was seeking a final three-week adjournment in order to consider advice from senior counsel.
But Mr Bell's solicitor said the ongoing delay was unacceptable. Peter Corrigan added: "There's absolutely no evidence of a nature which would be sufficient enough to amount to a prima facie case against the defendant. This case should be discontinued."
Judge Conner agreed to adjourn the case until next month, but he stressed that a final decision should be made by June 4. He said: "If that decision is to prosecute, I expect to have a preliminary enquiry date within a reasonable time."