A judge has adjourned his ruling on whether three cops accused of perverting justice will stand trial, for two months.
Adjoining the case against former sergeants Thomas Geoffrey Ellis and Harry McMahon and suspended Constable David Power at Dungannon Magistrates Court, District Judge John Meehan said of the day long legal submissions: “These are the perils in instances such as this. They always end with more problems than they started of with.”
All three face accusations of perverting the course of justice in July 2012 following the alleged unauthorised removal of items from a locker, belonging to Ellis, in Cookstown station.
While the case has been on the PPS books for months, it was only on Friday that the court finally heard the nature of the materials at issue in the case.
It is alleged that Sergeant McMahon tried to pervert the course of justice by emptying the locker at the request of Sergeant Ellis and when questioned by his colleagues, he claimed that Sergeant Ellis warned him he could find drugs in the locker.
As the court heard however no drugs were in fact found in the locker but some were found in the drawer of a desk belonging to Sergeant Ellis.
It is the prosecution case that not all the contents of the locker were recovered as some items were uncovered at the home of Sergeant McMahon’s girlfriend in Portstewart, while others were found on a dump in the north coast town.
As prosecuting lawyer Robin Steer put it however: “It is our contention that the locker was cleared and that there are other items which have not been recovered.”
In an exchange with Tony Caher, Sergeant McMahon’s solicitor, District Judge John Meehan said: “Your client is saying he was told he would find drugs in that locker and the purpose of the exercise was to ‘disappear’ those drugs from the PSNI; to take them out of the proper legal channels altogether.”
The court also heard for the first time that the PSNI’s Professional Standards Department (PSD) was carrying out an investigation centred on Cookstown and had closed the offices of the whole Crime Team, sealing it off and putting the officers on what was described as “gardening leave”.
All of the crime team officers were also to identify their lockers and then access to the lockers was restricted.
Defence lawyers Ian Turkington and Andrew Moriarity submitted that since the PSD’s investigation was not actually a criminal investigation but rather an internal review, it was therefore logical that their clients could not face a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Judge Meehan said the court simply did not know the extent or purpose of the PSD’s investigation and adjourned the case until September when he will give his ruling.