THE Public Proseuction Service said it was “disappointed” that witnesses in an IRA membership case had withdrawn their evidence ahead of their forthcoming trial next week.
However, the PPS said it “respected” the decision of the witnesses and intended to have a meeting with them to discuss the case.
This morning at Belfast Crown Court, the prosecution dropped a bombshell when it announced it was not proceeding with the case against IRA Army Council chiefs Padraic Wilson, from west Belfast and south Armagh man Sean ‘The Surgeon’ Hughes.
Both denied charges of membership of the Provisional IRA and organisin meetings for PIRA and addressing meetings of the banned organisation.
A statement from the Public Prosecution Service said: “We have had a series of meetings with the principal witnesses in this case, including in the weeks leading up to this court date.
“One witness expressed concerns in relation to a decision not to prosecute in a related case and also the selection of charges in this case.
“We sought to address these concerns by outlining the rationale for the prosecution decisions, although we were restricted in what we could properly discuss with a witness in on-going proceedings.
“This restriction was fully explained and an offer was made to provide more detailed reasons once the proceedings had concluded.”
It added: “In selecting the charges in this case we applied the test for prosecution to the available evidence.
“We are satisfied that the test for prosecution was met in respect of the offences charged but not in respect of other offences to which consideration was given.
“This case was ready to proceed to full trial on 8 June 2015 and has not been subject to any undue delay in the preparation of the prosecution case.
“In these circumstances it is disappointing that the witnesses have withdrawn, but we respect their decision to do so.
“Now that the proceedings have concluded we are able to fulfil our commitment to the witnesses to provide further information, which we hope will meet their concerns.”