A solicitor representing four people charged with membership of the Provisional IRA – who the courts have ruled cannot be named – has said they did not apply for reporting restrictions to be placed on the case.
During a hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday, a district judge ordered a special court sitting to be held next month to discuss the unusual press ban.
A total of five people, three men and two women, have been charged with membership of the Provisional IRA on dates between 1999 and 2000.
They are also accused of arranging or assisting in the management of a meeting by a proscribed organisation – the IRA – and supporting a proscribed organisation on named dates in 2000.
If found guilty the defendants, who deny the charges, would not be eligible for reduced sentences because the alleged offences took place after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement cut-off point.
Last month an alleged victim in the case asked for reporting restrictions to be lifted.
The woman claims she was forced to take part in a Provisional IRA investigation in 2000.
The restrictions were put in place at Belfast Magistrates Court on request of a defence representative without objection from prosecution lawyers.
A solicitor for the fifth accused, John Finucane, has told the court: “Not only was there no objection from the PPS but the PPS on that date instructed that if I hadn’t made the application, they would have.”
The alleged victim has since claimed the PSNI told her that despite her wishes, they intend to fight attempts to lift the reporting ban – a move believed to be unprecedented in paramilitary cases.
More details emerged during a brief hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday.
A solicitor for four of the accused, Peter Madden, said his clients “have not asked for restrictions” to be imposed.
“My four clients have not asked for restrictions and won’t be asking for it,” he said.
“While nobody wants their name published for an offence like this, that’s my clients’ position, they won’t be making any application.”
The solicitor added that the four will be “seriously contesting the charges”.
The alleged victim has claimed the reporting restriction is “fuelling speculation within the community and potentially putting my life at risk”.
“I am also of the opinion that the media should have the right to name the defendants,” she said.
Presiding District Judge Fiona Bagnall yesterday ordered legal representatives to submit written arguments to her by next Thursday, September 28.
A special sitting of the court will be held on October 4 to consider the existing reporting restrictions.