Police attempts to gain access to a former IRA man’s interviews for an American university project are just a “fishing expedition”, the High Court has heard.
Lawyers for Anthony McIntyre insisted recordings of his activities stored at Boston College only contain details of offences for which he has already served a prison sentence.
They are taking legal action to stop efforts by the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service to gain access to the tapes.
McIntyre, who is from Belfast but now lives in the Irish Republic, was one of the main researchers in the major project to compile an oral history of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Dozens of loyalists and republicans provided testimonies to Boston College on the understanding their account would only be made public after they died.
But those assurances were dealt a blow when legal battles resulted in police securing transcripts and tapes of interviews given by former IRA woman Dolours Price and ex-loyalist prisoner Winston “Winkie” Rea.
Now the authorities want access to McIntyre’s recorded recollection of his own IRA activities.
A subpoena seeking copies of his interviews has been served on Boston College by the British government.
The move involves a so-far undisclosed International Letter of Request (ILOR) setting out alleged offences being investigated.
The college has until May 26 to file a motion to quash those proceedings in the United States.
Meanwhile, McIntyre’s lawyers have launched legal action at the High Court in Belfast.
They are seeking to judicially review the PSNI and PPS for issuing the ILOR.
Ronan Lavery QC said that unlike the Rea case, the authorities have decided not to disclose details of the letter.
He told the court it was suspected the stance was taken because the ILOR reveals no specific offences.
According to the barrister McIntyre was in jail between 1976 and 1992, and has only been questioned about another alleged offence committed within prison.
“In June 1978 he was questioned about possession of an imitation firearm found in a pair of platform shoes,” Mr Lavery said.
“There’s no suggestion of any offence committed since that date.”
Based on the American proceedings taking place later this month, Mr Justice Maguire was told the judicial review application was no longer so urgent.
Mr Lavery contended, however: “We say it’s a fishing expedition, and has no specific (charge). But we won’t know that until we see the ILOR.”
Tony McGleenan QC, for the chief constable, responded that the court should wait until American proceedings are exhausted.
“At which point we will know if there’s a need for a hearing in this jurisdiction,” he explained.
Peter Coll QC, representing the PPS, agreed with his assessment, adding: “There’s no immediate urgency in this matter.”
Adjourning the case, Mr Justice Maguire noted that a future hearing may be required at short notice, depending on the outcome in the US.