A defence barrister has said it is “particularly shocking” the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) directing officer in the DCI John Caldwell attempted murder investigation has “seemingly not looked at page one” of the case file.
He was heavily critical of the delay in the case as it approaches the one year mark, after it emerged while PSNI have sent an electronic version of the file, the PPS have requested this in paper format.
The remarks came during a review hearing at Omagh Magistrates’ Court, where it was further revealed one of the accused who was previously granted bail, has been returned to custody having been caught with a phone which was not registered with police.
Seven men are currently charged with attempting to murder DCI Caldwell who was shot on February 22, last year as he finished coaching a youth football team at the Omagh Youth Sport Centre.
The attack was claimed by the New IRA and allegedly involved organised criminality.
The accused are Robert McLean (29) of Deveney Park, Omagh; James Ivor McLean (72) of the same address; Matthew McLean (33), Glenpark Road, Omagh; Jonathan McGinty (28) of St Julians Downs, Omagh; Brian Carron (38) of Claremount Drive, Coalisland; Gavin Coyle (45) of Killybrack Mews, Omagh; and Alan McFarland (47) of Deverney Park, Omagh.
Carron and Coyle are further accused of belonging to the IRA.
After the shooting, the assailants fled in a blue Ford Fiesta, which was later found burnt out near Racolpa Road in Omagh.
They then reportedly switched to a black Mercedes, which led them to Deverney Park where they went to the rear of a house then leave again in a white Transit Van
Both weapons used in the attack are still unaccounted for.
James Gerard McSorley (58) from Chichester Mews, Belfast; John Andrew Gallagher (45) from Church Drive, Newtownabbey; and Tony Thomas Slevin (47) from Derryloughan Road, Coalisland are charged with preparing for acts of terrorism in relation to a Ford Fiesta believed to have been used in the attack.
It emerged Slevin’s bail was recently revoked after police discovered he had a suspected “burner phone”.
Last month, the court heard a “preliminary file” was submitted to the PPS on December 7 and approximately 150 mobile phones have been sent for analysis but only so many can be examined at any one time, so a lot of work remains outstanding.
Defence counsel on that occasion pointed to the approaching one year mark and sought more definite progress as the accused “have been deprived of their liberty and that’s a very serious situation. They have a right and entitlement that matters are expedited”.
A substantial update was expected on Tuesday, however prosecution counsel explained that while the file containing 6,000 pages has been submitted electronically, the PPS directing officer has requested it in paper format.
This is to be delivered imminently after which she will start going through the file and decide on case progression.
The prosecution pointed out a schedule would be difficult before the directing officer has studied the file, adding, “it’s correct, phone reports are outstanding, however, several accused have not provided PIN codes. While police are attempting to get into those devices, a timetable in that regard is impossible”.
The defence said: “This is a deeply unsatisfactory position. Two months on from the file being submitted it seems the PPS directing officer has not even looked at page one. That is particularly shocking. A direction of the court has not been complied with.”
Deputy District Judge Gerry Trainor remarked: “This isn’t acceptable. I’m concerned the paper file is not with the directing officer and I expect it to be there very quickly.”
He listed a review on February 27 when a substantial update and timetable is expected.