Challenge against Boston College evidence in Jean McConville case
22 June 2016
Evidence against a veteran republican charged over the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville has been unlawfully obtained from America, a court has heard.
Ivor Bell’s lawyer claimed excessive material was disclosed from the Boston College history project in breach of an international treaty.
A legal bid will now be mounted to have the information excluded from a hearing to decide if the 79-year-old should stand trial.
Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, faces charges of soliciting to murder connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill Mrs McConville.
The victim, a mother of ten, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.
Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.
Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.
The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College as part of a project with former paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.
Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.
It is alleged that Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.
A voice analyst has been enlisted as part of the case.
The accused – who is currently on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that a Federal Court judge in America had ordered disclosure of Z’s interviews was to be limited to only material relating to the Jean McConville case.
Defence lawyer Peter Corrigan argued that the tapes handed over to police went beyond those restrictions.
“That evidence has been unlawfully obtained and should be excluded,” he claimed.
Mr Corrigan told the court that material put to Bell during police interviews was “way beyond the Jean McConville murder”.
“It was unfairly obtained and in clear contravention of an international treaty.”
The charge against Bell is set to be examined at a preliminary inquiry hearing where witnesses can be cross-examined.
Defence lawyers contend that he does not have a case to answer and will attempt to have the prosecution thrown out at that stage.
But following Wednesday’s developments District Judge Amanada Henderson requested further submissions on the lawfulness of the evidence.