Belfast Court Issues Stay On Materials
By David Cote
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about the subpoenas of the Belfast Project.
As the legal battle over the fate of the Belfast Project tapes continues in the United States Court of Appeals in Boston, and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is in the works on behalf of researchers Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, the two earned a small victory on Friday in the Belfast courts. The Irish High Court issued an injunction on Friday afternoon, temporarily preventing the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) from accessing any interviews from the project that may be turned over as a result of the subpoenas.
The injunction will prevent any and all tapes, including those recorded with former IRA member Dolours Price, from falling into the hands of the British authorities, despite the U.S. appeal court ruling last month that the tapes be handed over.
According to arguments made by lawyers on behalf of Moloney and McIntyre, releasing the tapes to the PSNI would put the lives of the researchers and those who participated in the interviews at risk due to the sensitive nature of the material disclosed.
“The PSNI seeing or receiving this material is going to be putting the applicant’s life at risk,” said David Scoffield on behalf of McIntyre, according to the BBC.
In addition, Scoffield argued that the injunction he wished was only temporary, until Moloney’s judicial review could be assessed.
Judge Justice Treacy pointed out that the appeal in the Belfast courts seemed to be a direct response to recent rulings in the U.S. preventing Moloney and McIntyre from interceding in the Belfast Project case.
“It seems a bit rich, having taken that step, then coming to this court having failed in America, to seek to restrict the police access to this material in discharging their obligation to investigate serious crime,” Treacy said, according to the BBC.
Treacy granted the temporary injunction, but emphasized that the injunction is directed only to the PSNI, and not American authorities.
“There is no question whatsoever of this being an injunction directed towards any American authorities,” Treacy said. “The interim relief is directed solely at the PSNI and any other relevant UK authorities.”
While the stay remains in place, two legal cases continue in the U.S. The first, involving lawyers representing BC, seeks to reverse Judge William G. Young’s ruling that seven Belfast Project tapes should be handed over to the PSNI in relation to the investigation of the murder of Jean McConville in 1972. BC has argued that the tapes have “limited probative value” to the investigation and should remain confidential.
The second case, proceeding on behalf of Moloney and McIntyre, seeks a stay on all Belfast Project tapes, including those with Price.
“In Boston, attorneys Eamonn Dornan and JJ Cotter have filed a petition to the First Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay on the handover of the Price interviews as well as those that are the subject of Friday’s appeal by Boston College, until the Supreme Court considers a bid to hear the case, which has huge constitutional, legal and political consequences, in front of America’s highest court,” Moloney said in a press release dated Sept. 6.
The temporary injunction issued by the Belfast court will remain in place until the researchers’ judicial review challenge is heard.