Boston material unreliable, judge told

Former IRA leader Ivor Bell pictured arriving at court in Belfast on 6 June 2013.
Former IRA leader Ivor Bell pictured arriving at court in Belfast on 6 June 2013.

An American university project used to charge an alleged former IRA commander with aiding and abetting the murder of Jean McConville is unreliable, a court has heard.

Ivor Bell’s lawyer also claimed some of the Boston College material was disclosed to police in violation of an international treaty.

Peter Corrigan said the PPS should decide the evidence does not meet the standard for criminal prosecution.

Mrs McConville was secretly killed by the IRA in 1972.

Bell, 77, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of the city, was arrested in March and charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

The case against him is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at Boston College in the USA.

Several ex-paramilitaries were interviewed about their roles in the conflict.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, last year a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

Veteran republican Bell – now on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday that his file will be allocated to a prosecutor within four weeks.

Mr Corrigan raised issues about the material being used against his client.

“It’s very clear it was an intellectual, academic project, but was riddled with inaccuracies, unreliable and subjective,” he contended.

“Any material gleaned from that does not match the rigorous standards required for a criminal (case). The PPS should take a view that this evidence is unreliable, has not been evaluated properly and should not be the basis of a criminal prosecution.”

Turning to the international treaty used to obtain the tapes, he argued that a US court ordered only material related to the Jean McConville case was to be disclosed.

“Throughout that interview material from the start of the Troubles right up to the late eighties was put in contravention of an international treaty direction,” he said.

“The American court directed in good faith certain materials and only those materials. That has been violated and it has a serious implication on how this court approaches the evidence and an abuse of the process.”

Responding to his request for the PPS to carry out a review and provide an update, District Judge Fiona Bagnall pointed out that a decision has yet to be taken on the prosecution.