Decision postponed in case of Jean McConville accused

A decision on the case of veteran republican Ivor Bell and his 'fitness to plead' on the charges he faces in relation to the disappearance of Belfast mother of ten Jean McConville was postponed on Thursday.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 10th May 2018, 6:52 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 1:12 am
Ivor Bell
Ivor Bell

Belfast Crown Court judge, Mr Justice Colton ruled that he would not make any ruling on the defence application, until a further application, by them, “to stay proceedings” is made and adjudicated upon by the court.

Mr Justice Colton said because of this “live issue” on whether not all proceedings should be stopped, he would delay “giving a determination” on the matter of his “fitness”.

The application of a “stay of proceedings”, if successful, would end all proceedings against the west Belfast man, not only criminal, but on whether a separate hearing could be heard to determine if Mr Bell “committed the act” as based on the facts presented to the court.

Even if such a hearing were held, the former republican would not be held criminally liable for any resulting finding of the court, nor would he face any criminal penalty, such as a jail sentence.

The defence maintain the health of the west Belfast man, from Ramoan Gardens, Andersonstown, is such he is unfit to stand trial, and that any trial would have further detrimental affect upon him.

Mr Bell, who has yet to be formally arraigned on the two charges he faces in connection with the murder and disappearance of the mother of ten almost 45 years ago, was again excused from attending court on Thursday.

The charges arise out of the IRA abduction and murder of Mrs McConville from her Divis flat home in west Belfast in December 1972.

The pensioner was originally charged with aiding and abetting her murder, and with being a member of the IRA, but they were subsequently amended by the Public Prosecution Service.

The charges he now faces firstly claim that “on a date unknown between the 31st day of October 1972 and the 1st day of January 1973 he encouraged persons not before the court to murder Jean McConville”, while the second accuses him of having “endeavoured to persuade persons” to carry out the murder.

Jean McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in December 1972 in front of her children after wrongly accused of being a British Army informant.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried, becoming one of the “Disappeared”, until in 1999 the IRA finally admitted the murder when information was passed to Garda in the Irish Republic.

Mrs McConville, whose body was found near to Templetown Beach in Co Louth in 2003, was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.