I DOUBT if I’m the only one that suspects the Omagh bomb trial of Sean Hoey will fall apart in a rather embarrassing way for the authorities, as there are strong suspicions of evidence tampering after forensic evidence was removed by the police Weapons & Explosives Research Centre (no, I’ve never heard of it either) for “training purposes”. The Irish News reports that the PSNI is facing legal action after refusing to say why WERC – described by Judge Cory in his Finucane report as being controlled by Special Branch – was given secret access to evidence held by the Forensic Science Service in a massively important trial – evidence which the court was told by a forensics officer came back from WERC “contaminated”. The highlight of Barry McCaffrey’s story (copied below) is the ‘Yes, Minister’-style reply from the PSNI ‘explaining’ why it couldn’t explain anything about WERC’s work. Elsewhere, Chris Thornton reveals how MI5 and the Army have been shredding files returned to them from the Stevens Inquiry, shortly before several major inquiries into allegations of security force/terrorist collusion.Shadowy unit given Omagh evidence
By Barry McCaffrey
Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde is facing potential legal action over police refusal to explain why a shadowy intelligence unit was given secret access to forensic evidence in dozens of murder trials.
Omagh bomb suspect Sean Hoey’s solicitor Kevin Winters has confirmed that he is preparing a legal challenge against the PSNI over its refusal to explain why a police intelligence unit was allowed unrestricted access to forensic evidence which had been due to be used in his trial.
Little or nothing is known about the activities of the highly secretive unit known as the Weapons & Explosives Research Centre (WERC).
During Hoey’s trial last year scientist Ruth Griffin admitted that trial evidence had been contaminated after WERC officers were allowed to remove it from the headquarters of forensic science service at Carrickfergus for “training” purposes.
Mrs Griffin revealed that WERC was given access to all forensic evidence held at the laboratory, even evidence which may be used in future trials.
However solicitors Kevin Winters says he is initiating legal proceedings against the PSNI after it refused to disclose even basic information about the shadowy unit’s activities, judging that it was “not in the public interest’’.
In correspondence worthy of the Sir Humphrey Appleby character from Yes Minister, a PSNI spokesman wrote: “We can neither confirm nor deny whether we hold any additional information to your request.
“It has been determined that in all circumstances of the case the public interest in maintaining the exclusion of duty to confirm or deny outweighs the public interest in confirming whether or not the information is held.
“To give a statement of the reasons why these exemptions apply would involve the disclosure of information which would itself be exempt.
“To divulge the specific work of WERC may pose a risk of exposure regarding the function of the specific function within the unit.
“The current and future law enforcement role of the PSNI may be compromised if the functions of WERC were identified, this may also highlight the methodology employed if released.’’
However Mr Winters says he will now take legal action against the chief constable to force him to reveal the activities of the shadowy unit.
“It is totally unacceptable that these faceless individuals are allowed to go into forensic science headquarters and handle evidence without any accountability,’’ he said.
“I have no problem if they were given access to evidence from trials which had already taken place.
“But it is clear they are being given access to forensic evidence in trials which have yet to take place.
“It has already been proved that they contaminated evidence in at least one case.
“It drives a coach and horses through a defendant’s entitlement to a fair trial,” he claimed.