Belfast Telegraph

'Grave concerns' over evidence in case of man accused of role in Black killing

By Michael Donnelly

A Garda detective seen and heard on video swearing and shouting at a suspect yesterday agreed with a judge that "a court of law" may have "grave concerns of relying on that evidence".

The officer, a member of the Garda's Special Detective counter-terrorism unit based in Dublin's Harcourt Square, was giving evidence at the Belfast Crown Court trial of Tyrone man Damien Joseph McLaughlin.

The 41-year-old, from Kilmascally Road near Ardboe, denies a total of six charges including aiding and abetting the drive-by shooting dead of 52-year-old prison officer David Black in November 2012, and IRA membership.

The detective had just completed his cross-examination by defence QC Orlando Pownall concerning his interviewing techniques and those of two fellow officers, when trial judge Mr Justice Colton asked for his comment.

The senior judge, sitting without a jury, initially put it to the officer he already accepted that he did not anticipate that the video recording of the interview "would see the light of day".

In the interview, conducted in a Co Leitrim Garda Station, a suspect, continually shouted, swore and cursed at, purported to identify Mr McLaughlin, and the car used in M1 motorway ambush, after prompting from officers.

The detective also accepted that he did not believe the interview "would be subject to scrutiny in a court of law", before Mr Justice Colton then put it to him: "Can you understand why any court would have considerable concerns of relying on the evidence?"

"Yes," came the officer's reply.

However, another Garda detective told Mr Justice Colton that he thought it possible that the taped interviews would see the light of day, and ultimately be played to a court.

The judge told the officer he wanted to be "clear" on his answer when asked by Mr Pownall about the matter, and if he was "saying that you anticipated that the tapes may be played to a court, if not in Belfast, but in Dublin".

"It's a possibility," said the detective, who also told the court that he believed that all of the matters would be viewed by the Republic's Director of Public Prosecutions, who would decide if there should be a prosecution in the case.

However, his colleague in his earlier evidence said the first time he realised the video-taped interviews would be used in court was when he was called to make a deposition in Belfast Magistrates court.

While the detective agreed that "the language used" to the suspect "was appalling", he maintained that he was only "being robust" with the man who allegedly helped Mr McLaughlin start the Toyota Camry said to have been used by the gunmen.

And while at times he appeared to accept that he would "gauge" the language he would use, depending on the answers he was getting from a suspect, his two colleagues claimed there was nothing wrong in what was said during the interviews.

At hearing.

Belfast Telegraph

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