IRA charge trial collapses

Royal Courts of Justice, Chichester Street, Belfast.
Royal Courts of Justice, Chichester Street, Belfast.

The trial of a man accused of being a member of the Provisional IRA dramatically collapsed yesterday at Belfast Crown Court.

Martin Edward Morris, 49, of Welbeck Road, London, was due to stand trial on a single charge of professing to be a member of the IRA between August 1, 1997 and June 30, 2000.

However, prosecuting counsel Philip Mateer QC told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that “the Crown are offering no evidence against the defendant’’.

As a result, Judge McFarland said he was recording a finding of not guilty against Morris.

Two days had been set asisde for the non-jury Diplock trial but the opening was delayed because of legal argument.

The court heard that the only evidence against Morris, formerly of the Falls Road in west Belfast, was that of a female complainant.

She had told police that Morris had professed to her to being a member of the Provisional IRA.

Mr Mateer QC had applied for the witness to be allowed to give her evidence at the trial by way of a live video-link.

He said that the witness was “in fear” of giving evidence in open court against the defendant.

She had claimed in a statement to police that at a previous court hearing last December Morris had “glared” at her.

However, defence counsel Mark Mulholland QC had objected to the special measures application on the grounds of lateness in the hearing and also that it was prejudicial to Morris.

Counsel said the statement claimed that at another hearing Morris had “intentionally waited for her coming out of the lift’’.

Mr Mulholland QC said that in all likelihood he would have to seek copies of the CCTV system in the court foyer for that date to check out her claims, which could result in a possible delay in the trial.

However, following consultations with the Public Prosecution Service, Mr Mateer QC later returned to the court to state that “no evidence’’ was now being offered against Morris.