The Police Ombudsman’s investigation into claims by the trial judge Mr Justice Kerr, when finding Sean Hoey not guilty on charges connected to the Omagh bombing, that police forensic officers had engaged in a “deliberate and calculated deception” has concluded that the witnesses’ evidence was confused, but accurate. The Police Ombudsman’s press statement is here and the full statement on the investigation here [pdf file]. As the BBC reports
Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson said that while the evidence given to the court by the two officers was confused, it was accurate.
“The judge interpreted the evidence, I’m saying that he interpreted it wrongly, we have evidence that he interpreted it wrongly,” he said. “But it’s also understandable the trial judge came to the conclusion that he simply did not know whether he could believe the officers or not.”
From the Police Ombudsman’s statement
An investigation by the Police Ombudsman’s Office has found that the presentation of a photograph to the judge at the Omagh bomb trial with respect to the discovery of an unexploded mortar bomb at Altmore Forest led him to conclude that two police witnesses had not told the truth about forensic precautions taken at the scene. In fact, as a police witness had claimed, the photograph had been taken later than was thought.
Read the ‘Conclusions’ of Ombudsman’s Statement on the Investigation [pdf file] for more details.
Adds From the Guardian report
The officers had initially told the court they had worn protective clothing when collecting material from the scene of an unexploded mortar in Altmore Forest, County Tyrone, but the judge later questioned this when he was presented with a photograph showing them on the site in plain clothes. The mortar find formed part of an array of terrorist incidents the Crown had alleged Hoey was involved in.
An 18-month investigation by Hutchinson’s team found that the photograph had actually been taken after the forensic tests were completed. Hutchinson also rejected defence claims that the officers had “beefed up” parts of their testimony.
“If, by the term ‘beefing up’, it is meant to suggest that police officers added untrue information to their statements, then we have found no evidence that police statements were ‘beefed up’ by the two officers in question or by any others,” Hutchinson said. “We did find, however, that factually correct information was added to statements. I must also conclude that the two police officers were confused in the evidence they gave to the court.”