The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has made a rapid U-turn on its decision to interview a lawyer from Belfast-based firm Kevin R Winters & Co as he begins to lead the defence of a high-profile murder trial in Northern Ireland.
Peter Corrigan was asked to ’voluntarily’ speak to the police last week, but was subsequently threatened with arrest if he failed to go to the police station.
The police then abruptly retracted the request. In a statement the PSNI said it had received additional information that would have made the interview “inappropriate”.
Corrigan is leading the defence of Colin Duffy and Brian Shivers, who stand accused of murdering Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar outside Massereene army barracks in Antrim in 2009. The trial got underway in Antrim today.
It is believed that the police wanted to speak to Corrigan about allegations relating to one of his other clients, convicted smuggler Aiden Grew.
“We think this is the issue, but the PSNI has still not specified what they wanted to talk to him about,” partner Kevin Winters told The Lawyer.
Winters added: “Mr Corrigan acted in total compliance with the police’s requests. As a criminal law practice, we’re obviously mindful of the rigours of legislation.”
Winters said that the police’s U-turn was comforting, but said he views the PSNI’s actions as “disproportionate and an oppressive assessment of a solictor’s role”.
The situation has attracted criticism from a number of human rights organisations and top barristers such as Orlando Pownall QC of 2 Hare Court. The QC, who has taken on a number of high-profile trials in Northern Ireland in recent years, told The Irish News that the PSNI’s actions were both “inconceivable” and “reprehensible”.
Pownall has been instructed by Corrigan both in the defence trial of Aiden Grew in 2008 and the defence trial of Sean Hoey, who was wrongfully accused of orchestrating the 1998 Omagh bombing.
Corrigan’s interview with the PSNI is due to be rescheduled for an unknown date in the future.