TWO men and two women accused of Provisional IRA membership more than a decade ago can be identified after reporting restrictions were lifted yesterday.
A judge ruled that the defendants, all from Belfast, could be named as long as the media abide by relevant legal precautions.
Last night the alleged victim at the centre of the case, who did not want the restrictions and instructed a barrister to challenge their validity, said that she should never have had to do so. The woman told the News Letter: “It is highly regrettable that as a witness for the prosecution I had to instruct my own counsel to petition the judge directly in the absence of a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) challenge to the reporting restrictions, when I had alerted them to the fact that the speculation the restrictions fuelled was potentially putting my life at risk.
“This case highlights the need for victims and witnesses to be given a voice within the justice system, and had John J Rice and Co not acted on my behalf, my voice and opinions would have been ignored, along with the principles of open justice.”
It can now be reported that those facing criminal proceedings are: James Gerard Seamus Finucane, 55, of Hawthorn Hill, Hannahstown; Padraic Conner Wilson, 53, with an address at the Sinn Fein Advice Centre on the Falls Road; Agnes McCrory, 72, of Dermott Hill Road; and Briege Wright, 55, from Glassmullin Gardens.
It is alleged that all four belonged to a proscribed organisation, namely the Provisional IRA, on dates between 1999 and 2000.
They are also accused of arranging, addressing or assisting in the management of a PIRA meeting.
A fifth defendant, another man alleged to have been an IRA member, is not being named for separate legal reasons.
None of the five attended Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday. The case against them has been brought by way of a prosecution summons.
Legal sources say they have not yet been formally charged.
The ban on naming them was imposed in August to protect the identity of an alleged victim in the case but after that was challenged District Judge Fiona Bagnall reversed the prohibition.
Following her ruling a solicitor for Mr Finucane, Mr Wilson, Ms McCrory and Ms Wright claimed the case should be reviewed. Peter Madden told the court he has written to the PPS. He said: “There are unusual aspects of this case and there are policy aspects to this case which I have asked the prosecutor to review. It may have to go to the Director (of Public Prosecutions).”
Mr Madden added: “There is a large issue about how this prosecution was actually initiated, who initiated it and why they initiated it.”
The case was listed for mention on November 8. Outside the court a lawyer for the alleged victim said the decision reflected the principal of justice being seen to be done. Michael Sinclair, of John J Rice & Co Solicitors, said: “The alleged injured party in this case sought independent legal advice to challenge these restrictions and the ruling today justifies her position.”