Northern Ireland

Judge halts 'unfair' kidnap trial

A judge has halted the kidnap trial of a brother-in-law of Martin McGuinness.

Marvin Canning from the Glendara area of Londonderry, was accused at Belfast Crown Court of kidnapping and shooting a businessman from Mullingar.

Mr Justice McCloskey said late disclosure of "pivotal" statements by prosecutors meant the trial was unfair.

The judge said while it did not equate to a formal acquittal, inconsistencies in the evidence meant he would not have convicted him of the charges anyway.

Mr Canning had been charged with kidnapping the County Westmeath businessman and his partner, falsely imprisoning them, wounding the man and possessing the gun used to shoot him in both feet.

'Probably unprecedented'

The judge said the late disclosure of materials was to be "lamented and strongly deprecated" and that as such, had resulted in such potential prejudice as to render any trial unfair.

"Late disclosure has occured in this trial on such a scale which is probably, and hopefully, unprecedented," he said.

Mr Justice McCloskey said the disclosure failures were "of some gravity".

"It is to be expected of the chief constable that the organisations of cases are to be scrupulously investigated to identify any weaknesses in the police system so as to ensure that there would be no comparable recurrence," he added.

He said there was no doubt the couple had "suffered a terrible ordeal".

While he believed they were "truthful witnesses" who had shown considerable "fortitude and courage," he said the threshold of proof beyond reasonable doubt of Mr Canning's guilt "would not have been overcome".

He rejected an argument made by a prosecution barrister that he could excuse himself and a fresh trial be held with a new judge after full disclosure had been made.

Proceedings were adjourned until next Wednesday to allow prosecutors to consider his ruling and decide whether to appeal.

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