15 December 2005 Edition

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Ward charged yet Northern Bank case falling apart

Last week saw Northern Bank employee Chris Ward charged with the £26.5m robbery and raids on the GAA's Antrim headquarters at Casement Park.

But it is now clear the high-profile PSNI strategy is falling apart.

The charges against Ward are flimsy, as they are based on circumstantial evidence, while another of those arrested in a blaze of publicity last month, Peter Kelly, has had the charges against him thrown out.

Now, a third man, Dominic McEvoy, charged with kidnapping bank employee Kevin McMullan, has been released on bail.

Chris Ward has accused the PSNI of framing him. He was charged after eight days of questioning which marked a legal landmark as the longest period a suspect was held in custody in the Six Counties without charge.

Director of the Committee for the Administration Justice, Maggie Beirne said her organisation is concerned that the PSNI is applying for periods of extension and at how they are using them. Under the Criminal Justice Act the PSNI can hold a suspect for up to 14 days, but only after successive 48 hour extensions have been granted by a judge.

Just 24 hours after Chris Ward was remanded in custody charges against a Newry man, one of a number of men arrested in raids connected with the Northern Bank, was released. Peter Kelly was arrested on 2 November. Solicitors said Kelly would be filing a complaint with the Police Ombudsman and would issue legal proceedings against the Chief Constable for malicious prosecution.

Within 24 hours of charges against Kelly being withdrawn 23-year-old Dominic McEvoy from Kilcoo, County Down, also charged in connection with the bank raid, was released on bail.

Meanwhile a senior GAA official, Gerry McClory, has accused the PSNI of "talking codswallop" and playing with words. McClory was speaking after PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Paul Leighton said PSNI raids of Casement Park, on Friday 1 December, in connection with the bank robbery was carried out after a community impact assessment was conducted.

Criticising the PSNI approach McCrory said they didn't consult the GAA about their community impact assessment and there was no briefing given to any GAA official.

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