Downing Street phoned the PSNI at Gerry Adams’ request and asked them to release a man subsequently convicted of attempted murder, said a retired senior detective.
Former detective chief superintendent Norman Baxter said that the “illegal and unconstitutional” request had been made to the chief constable’s office which had then phoned him, but was firmly told that he would not be heeding it.
Mr Baxter’s dramatic evidence came on the first day of Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee’s inquiry into the on the runs scandal.
He said that the phone call from Tony Blair’s office had come in 2007, just hours after the arrest of Gerry McGeough and Vincent McAnespie for the attempted murder of DUP councillor Sammy Brush.
He said: “That [was] in my mind an attempt to pervert the course of justice. That is totally illegal and unconstitutional.”
He added: “I ignored the telephone call. Of course I recorded it.
“But Mr McGeough was successfully prosecuted.”
He said there were “other examples which, in a public forum, I’m not prepared to go into”.
The impact on victims of such political meddling in policing had been “horrendous” he said, and added: “I would say there was a culture within the NIO to ensure that republicans were not prosecuted.”
Mr Baxter said he feared that unidentified people would “try to hang me out to dry” but he had confidence in the committee. He also said he has not been contacted by the official inquiry which the government had set up, run by Lady Justice Hallett.
He added: “If I can be frank, Mr chairman, the victims in Northern Ireland will never get justice... It’s almost as if the blood of the victims is crying out for justice and there’s no one to listen to them”.
Mr Baxter also slammed former Secretary of State Peter Hain for appearing to show “great glee” in supporting someone suspected of murder, and said that the NIO had used the Royal Prerogative of Mercy “as an alternative for amnesty”.
Appearing after Mr Baxter, Mr Sheridan said the police review team knew Downey was wanted by the Metropolitan Police and more information should have been given to the judge.
But he insisted that NIO official knew where the line constituting political interference was and did not cross it, as far as he was aware.