Police approach to be informer ‘put my life at risk’

Laganside Courts, Belfast.  Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013
Laganside Courts, Belfast. Pic: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker 22/5/2013

A Co Tyrone man’s life was put at risk by alleged police attempts to recruit him as an informer, the High Court has heard.

Brian Sheridan’s lawyers claim undercover PSNI officers made unsuccessful approaches in Oslo and Armagh in a bid to gain intelligence.

The 39-year-old is taking legal action against the chief constable, arguing that a lack of policy to regulate the practice is unlawful.

He is also challenging the police ombudsman’s decision not to uphold his complaint about the officers’ actions.

Mr Sheridan, from Blackwatertown, claims he was approached in February and October 2015 by police seeking either intelligence or information.

Launching judicial review proceedings, his barrister contended that there had been a breach of his rights to life and privacy under European law.

Hugh Southey QC stressed the concern that people might wrongly think Mr Sheridan had done a deal with police.

“They might have been pursuing him to act as an informer, but I can’t know that because the approaches didn’t get very far,” he said.

Mr Southey argued that the police conduct had the potential to cause serious risk of harm.

The alleged encounters continued despite his client asking officers to stop, the court heard.

“The complaint was that he was placed in danger by these approaches,” counsel said.

According to Mr Sheridan’s case the ombudsman failed to properly investigate his grievances before reaching a decision in February this year.

His lawyers claim the watchdog wrongly focused on misconduct rather than considering any human rights breaches.

Counsel for the chief constable, Tommy McGleenan QC, countered by claiming delays in bringing the case.

He argued that Mr Sheridan had enough information to bring proceedings back in October last year.

“The applicant now says ‘I’m not actually complaining about the contact between the police officers and myself’,” the barrister said.

“He says he is complaining about the policy or absence of policy dealing with approaches of this type.”

Judgment was reserved following all submissions.

Pledging to give his verdict as quickly as possible, Mr Justice Maguire said: “I don’t intend to try to deal with the outcome of the leave hearing without giving the case more attention.”