Omagh judge launches attack on police witnesses

The judge in the Omagh bomb trial today launched a blistering attack on two police officers over what he branded misleading and false evidence.

He called their actions “reprehensible” and added: “The credibility of the two witnesses had been brought into serious question”.

It was revealed today the Northern Police Ombudsman has been called in by Chief Constable Huge Orde after the judge earlier called for an immediate investigation of the officers’ actions.

Mr Justice Weir issued his damning indictment of Detective Sergeant Fiona Cooper and Detective Sergeant Philip Marshall, since promoted to detective chief inspector, when ruling on a defence application to have two of the 58 charges against the alleged Omagh bomber thrown out.

Yesterday the defence team for 37-year-old south Armagh man Sean Hoey made an application to have two charges, unrelated to the Omagh bombing itself, dismissed.

Orlando Pownall, QC, claimed the officers had been involved in “a unity of purpose, otherwise known as a conspiracy to bury” evidence.

The charges surrounded a murder conspiracy and a mortar bomb find at Altmore Forest at Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in April 2001, nearly three years after the Omagh bomb, which claimed 29 lives and injured hundreds more.

Hoey, an electrician, denies all charges against him.

After considering the application overnight the judge told Mr Pownall he was turning it down.

However, he described the actions of the two police officers as “reprehensible”.

He said: “The defence has exposed the nature of false and misleading evidence of these two witnesses”.

He went on: “The credibility of the two witnesses has been brought into serious question.”

Explaining his refusal to drop the charges he said: “I do not, however, accept in the course of the present case that the conduct of the police witnesses is so grave as to threaten or undermine the rule of law itself.

“Any prejudice can be dealt with within the trial process.”

Mr Justice Weir said he considered there was no infringement of Hoey’s human rights in continuing the trial on the two counts.

The accusations against the two police witnesses centred on written statements that they made and that the court heard had replaced earlier statements, which had since disappeared.

Mr Pownall alleged the statements had been doctored to beef up the case against Hoey to appear stronger.

Last week the judge called for an immediate investigation into why the statements were altered.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland confirmed today that Orde had referred the matter to the police ombudsman for investigation.

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