A new defence witness in appeals by two men jailed for murdering PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll has been “nobbled”, senior judges were told yesterday.
Lawyers for John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville also claimed authorisation for police surveillance was improperly obtained in a bid to sabotage attempts to overturn their convictions.
The allegations were made during applications for the disclosure of material before appeal hearings next month.
Constable Carroll was shot dead as he responded to a 999 call at Lismore Manor, Craigavon in March 2009.
McConville, 42, of Glenholme Avenue in the town, is serving at least a 25 year sentence for the killing. Wootton, 22, of Collindale, Lurgan, received a minimum 14-year term.
Their joint appeal was due to be heard in April. But days before it a man related to a key prosecution witness was detained for two days before being released without charge.
This man, who cannot be identified, has made a sworn court statement branding his relative a compulsive liar.
According to defence lawyers police arrested him in a bid to pressure him into withdrawing his evidence, and warned he would be discredited if he testified.
In the Court of Appeal yesterday Barry Macdonald QC told judges why he does not want to come to court.
“To use the vernacular, this witness has been nobbled by the prosecution or the police,” he said.
Counsel for the prosecution argued, however, that he could have been called at the original trial. He confirmed that the reliability of the statement now given by this man is being questioned. The barrister said it was being alleged: “Either that he was coerced in some way or was co-operating willingly in effectively attempting to pervert the course of justice.”
He acknowledged the prosecution was not alleging any coercion occurred at meetings with defence solicitors. Instead, he claimed it was “inferential” from the evidence.
Mr Macdonald identified issues over the amount of audio and video recordings disclosed from a covert police operation on the new witness.