Sitting in the County Court Appeal in Belfast this afternoon, His Honour Judge Miller QC granted an appeal against conviction against 18 year old Conál Corbett regarding an alleged assault on Police on 14 April 2015 in the Ardoyne area of Belfast.

Laganside Courts, Belfast

Laganside Courts, Belfast

The main Prosecution witness, a Sergeant based in Tennant Street PSNI, stated that on the night in question he had been travelling citywards on Crumlin Road, Belfast at approximately 00:25 hours. He had instantly recognised Mr. Corbett due to his “distinctive walk.”

Contrary to the witness statement provided, the Sergeant’s handwritten notebook at the time had recorded that he had stopped and searched Mr. Corbett under “s43 of the Justice and Security Act.”

In cross-examination, the Sergeant gave evidence to the Court that s43 of the Justice and Security Act does affords Police the power to stop and search.

S43 of the Justice and Security Act is in fact a provision in relation to accredited Community-based Restorative Justice Schemes!

An application was made to the Judge on the basis that Mr. Corbett was charged with assault on a police officer in the lawful execution of his duty.

Police are required to act lawfully in the execution of their duty which includes using stop and search powers correctly. From the notebook entries and evidence given to the Court, doubt was raised as to which powers the Sergeant had even used, together with his basic understanding as to how these powers should be used.

Any misuse of these powers can amount to an infringement of any person’s liberty.

Granting the appeal, the Judge had stated that there was a clear issue in respect of the legality of the powers used by the Sergeant and this accordingly created a doubt in his mind in relation to the conviction.

Conál is represented by Madden & Finucane Solicitors. He is the youngest Republican Remand Prisoner in Maghaberry Jail and has been held separately since May 2015 on charges relating to the Terrorism Act. Before his remand in custody, he was subjected to Stop and Searches on an almost daily basis by the PSNI.

Welcoming the appeal, Michael Halleron of Madden & Finucane, said:

“There is a clear issue in relation to the arbitrary nature and lawfulness of the PSNI’s ongoing use of Stop and Search powers.

“It is bizarre that senior police officers can stop young people on the streets of Belfast without being aware of the legal basis for so doing.

“We will be issuing proceedings in relation to this unlawful stop and search immediately.”

The High Court will be considering the lawfulness and compatibility with European Human Rights Legislation in an application for Judicial Review by Steven Ramsay from Derry later this month.