Canning trial halted

The BBC reports that Mr Justice McCloskey has halted the trial of Marvin Canning, the brother-in-law of Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, on charges relating to the abduction and assault of a businessman and his partner from their home in Mullingar, County Westmeath, in April 2007.

The couple were later found in the High Park area of Creggan, Londonderry.  The man had been shot in both ankles and subsequently lost the sight of his left eye.

The body of a man who was reportedly being sought by police for questioning about the Mullingar abduction was discovered on the shores of Lough Neagh in January 2008.

From today’s BBC report

Mr Justice McCloskey said late disclosure of “pivotal” statements by prosecutors meant the trial was unfair.

The judge said while it did not equate to a formal acquittal, inconsistencies in the evidence meant he would not have convicted him of the charges anyway.

Mr Canning had been charged with kidnapping the County Westmeath businessman and his partner, falsely imprisoning them, wounding the man and possessing the gun used to shoot him in both feet.

The judge said the late disclosure of materials was to be “lamented and strongly deprecated” and that as such, had resulted in such potential prejudice as to render any trial unfair.

“Late disclosure has occured in this trial on such a scale which is probably, and hopefully, unprecedented,” he said.

Mr Justice McCloskey said the disclosure failures were “of some gravity”.

“It is to be expected of the chief constable that the organisations of cases are to be scrupulously investigated to identify any weaknesses in the police system so as to ensure that there would be no comparable recurrence,” he added.

He said there was no doubt the couple had “suffered a terrible ordeal”.

While he believed they were “truthful witnesses” who had shown considerable “fortitude and courage,” he said the threshold of proof beyond reasonable doubt of Mr Canning’s guilt “would not have been overcome”.

The UTV report adds

Granting the abuse of process application at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice McCloskey said there was no doubt the new materials, including statements from Garda Siochana officers and other documents relating to interviews of other suspects and identity parades, were “pivotal” to the case.

And that

During the application prosecuting QC David Hunter had argued that the judge could excuse himself and a fresh trial be held with a new judge after full disclosure had been made but Mr Justice McCloskey rejected that argument.

He said that to date “a significant Pandora’s box” has been opened and any new trial would have the potential to extend that further with more investigations to be carried out by both the defence and prosecution.

While Mr Justice McCloskey granted the stay application, he adjourned the trial until next Wednesday to allow the Crown time to consider his ruling and whether they will launch an appeal against it.

Update  The BBC reports today (10 November)

Prosecutors told Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday they would not appeal against the judge’s decision.