11 January 2007 Edition
Northern Bank charges dropped
The PSNI’s ‘political agenda’ and its conduct during the investigation into the Northern Bank robbery of two years ago have once again come under scrutiny after the charges against two men were withdrawn in the High Court in Belfast on Wednesday, 4 January.
Reacting to the release of the two men, Sinn Féin’s Caitríona Ruane accused the PSNI of “operating a political agenda. It was never about trying to find those responsible, it was always about blaming republicans and undermining the peace process”.
Dominic McEvoy from Kilcoo in County Down and Martin McAliskey from Coalisland in County Tyrone walked free from a Belfast court last week after a lawyer from the Public Prosecution Service admitted in court that the PSNI files in relation to the charges against the pair did not meet the test required for prosecution.
In November 2005, McEvoy became the first person to be charged with the £26million robbery of the Northern Bank in Belfast City centre in December 2004. He appeared in court in a blaze of publicity and was soon followed into court by three other men: Chris Ward, the bank official whose family was also held hostage, Martin McAliskey, and Peter Kelly, a technician from Newry, County Down.
McEvoy was charged with imprisoning a bank employee and robbing the Northern Bank, while McAliskey was accused of withholding information about the white van used to carry the stolen money away from the scene.
The case against Kelly collapsed soon afterwards.
Referring to McEvoy’s release, his solicitor, Niall Murphy, said that the withdrawal of the charges against his client were long overdue and that he was considering making a complaint to the Police Ombudsman.
Murphy added that he found it amazing that the PPS was continuing to pursue the case against Chris Ward “given that there is no evidence against him”.
Meanwhile, PSNI boss Hugh Orde described the acquittals as “a setback”.