Ex-loyalist prisoner in legal battle over Boston tapes

Former loyalist prisoner Winston 'Winkie' Rea
Former loyalist prisoner Winston 'Winkie' Rea

A former loyalist prisoner has launched a High Court attempt to block prosecuting authorities from obtaining interviews he gave to a US university project.

Winston ‘Winkie’ Rea issued emergency proceedings in an effort to stop the handover of material from Boston College.

He was among dozens of loyalists and republicans who provided testimonies for a project designed to establish an oral history of the Northern Ireland conflict.

Interviews were given on the understanding that tapes would not be made public until after their deaths.

But those assurances were dealt a blow in 2013 when detectives investigating the abduction and murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville back in 1972 secured the transcripts of former IRA woman Dolours Price’s account.

That material was handed over following court battles on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rea, an ex-prisoner and son-in-law of the late UVF leader Gusty Spence, is now seeking to judicially review the Public Prosecution Service’s attempts to obtain his interviews.

He claims that a subpoena for the material is unlawful and lacking in any specifics about why the tapes are being sought.

In court on Thursday his barrister disclosed that the material has been passed to US authorities.

He claimed there was now nothing preventing the PSNI from travelling to the US to collect it.

With papers now to be served on the PSNI as a notice party, Mr Justice Treacy agreed to adjourn the case until next week.

Outside court Rea’s solicitor, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, claimed no legal justification for obtaining the tapes has been given.

He said: “It’s unsatisfactory and flies in the face of openness and transparency that the authorities have failed to provide specific information or subpoena to back the request for the Winston Rea material.”