The Irish High Court has granted a temporary injunction to stop the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) from taking possession of incriminating interviews with a former IRA bomber.
According to the BBC, Judge Justice Treacy prevented the PSNI from receiving tape recordings that were carried out with former IRA member Dolours Price, who made them on the condition that the tapes not be released in her lifetimes. The tapes were made for a history project at Boston College and in July a US appeal court ruled that they should be handed over to the PSNI.
The order will remain in place until a legal challenge by Anthony McIntyre gets under way in Belfast next Wednesday.
McIntyre, who is himself a former IRA volunteer turned academic, is seeking to judicially review the police over their attempts to secure the tapes for their investigation into the 1972 abduction and murder of Jean McConville, one of the so-called Disappeared.
McIntyre's lawyers have forcefully argued that disclosing the sealed transcripts will put his life at risk.
Loyalist and republican paramilitaries reportedly gave sensitive and highly detailed interviews to McIntyre and journalist Ed Moloney for Boston College's Belfast Project, which closely examined the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Price, one of their interviewees, was jailed for her part in a bomb attack on the Old Bailey in London in 1973 which injured more than 200 people.
With the expiry of the seven-day stay on supplying the material to police looming, lawyers for McIntyre have argued it was academic work which should not be disclosed.
McIntyre's lawyer said David Scoffield said: 'The PSNI seeing or receiving this material is going to be putting the applicant's life at risk.'
During the hearing the judge departed from this assessment, however, saying: 'Material was provided on a voluntary basis by people who apparently were members of the IRA and subject to a code of secrecy who nonetheless apparently gave accounts of their involvement to people in America under assurances of confidentiality which they must have known, or should have known, is not something they could give.
'Ultimately a court will determine whether it should yield to public interest.'
The judge then pointed out that a book by Moloney based on the same research project has already been published. 'It was the journalists themselves who used the material to publish a book,' Justice Treacy said.
The judge also asked whether the latest legal moves in Northern Ireland were an attempt to 'circumvent' the rulings on challenges in the United States.
'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.'
Scoffield argued that the PSNI had failed to take into account his client's right to life under European law. He added that he was only seeking a short restraining order until the merits of his judicial review application can be assessed.
Opposing on behalf of the PSNI, barrister Peter Coll argued that the legal challenge in America had already delayed police investigations by nearly two years.
'They are engaged in an active, live criminal investigation into the kidnapping, murder and other offences involving what has been described as the Disappeared, including Jean McConville,' he said.
'The applicant knew the purpose from his own prospective, that this oral history would be taken and, upon the death of the participants to this history, it would be open season in respect of the releasing of this material. We say it is somewhat incongruous for the applicant to say he now takes the view that his rights to life have been infringed.'
Justice Treacy however agreed to grant the interim order sought, citing the human rights aspect and limited period involved.
He added: 'There is no question whatsoever of this being an injunction directed towards any American authorities. The interim relief is directed solely at the PSNI and any other relevant UK authorities.'
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