Murder case judge criticises forensics delays
A District Judge has raised questions over whether the Forensic Science Service sees murders in Belfast as a higher priority than those in Londonderry.
Barney McElholm made his criticism yesterday in Londonderry Magistrates' Court during a video link appearance by three men charged with the murder of 52-year-old Edward Meenan.
Mr Meenan died of multiple stab wounds in the city following an incident in Creggan Street on November 25 last year.
The accused are Ryan Walters (20), from Crawford Square; Sean Rodgers (31), from the Little Diamond; and Derek Creswell (27), of no fixed abode.
All three have been in custody in Maghaberry Prison since their arrests last November.
Updating the court on the case, a solicitor for the Public Prosecution Service said that a port-mortem report was available, a report on knives and sewer rods would be available in four weeks and other reports in relation to footwear and fingerprints would not be available for at least another two months.
Solicitors for the defendants said they had been told in January that all forensic reports would be ready by March and added the delay was concerning.
The judge said the criminal justice system was abdicating its responsibility for this type of case. Mr McElholm added that once reports went to the Forensic Science Service, there was not a lot the courts could do.
He said that while the delay could be an issue caused by a lack of resources, he was unsure and claimed that until the courts were given some control over the service, there was nothing he could do.
Mr McElholm said until the courts had the power to "drag people down here and ask them how they decide their priorities", the delays could continue.
"I don't know how they set priorities," he added. "Does a murder in Belfast take priority over a murder in Derry?
"Surely a murder case should be a priority. How they decide these things is a complete mystery. The only thing we can say is they are taking far too long."
The case against two of the defendants, Walters and Creswell, was adjourned until June 6.
The case against Rodgers was adjourned until May 20 for a contested bail application.