Maze escaper 'Bik' McFarlane in trial prevention bid

Maze prison escaper Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane is to appeal to the Supreme Court in a bid to prevent his trial going ahead on charges connected with the 1983 kidnapping of supermarket boss Don Tidey.

Maze prison escaper Brendan 'Bik' McFarlane is to appeal to the Supreme Court in a bid to prevent his trial going ahead on charges connected with the 1983 kidnapping of supermarket boss Don Tidey.

The Special Criminal Court was told today that his lawyers are preparing to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court against a High Court ruling last month that his trial should go ahead. The court today remanded Mc Farlane on continuing bail until February 20 next when his case will be mentioned again.

McFarlane (aged 55),a father of three, of Jamaica St in Belfast was charged in January 1998 with falsely imprisoning Mr Don Tidey in 1983 and with possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at Derrada Wood, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim in November and December 1983.

Mc Farlane had been in prison at the Maze since 1975 for his part in the IRA bombing of a bar on the Shankill Road in which five people were killed.

He was the OC (officer commanding) of the Provisional IRA prisoners at the Maze prison at the time of the hunger strike in 1981 and escaped in the mass break out by 38 prisoners from the jail in September, 1983. He was later arrested in Amsterdam in January, 1986, extradited to the North and released on parole from the Maze in 1997. He was arrested by gardaí outside Dundalk in January, 1998.

Supermarket executive Don Tidey was kidnapped by an IRA gang in 1983 and rescued after 23 days in captivity. A trainee garda, Gary Sheehan, and a member of the Defence Forces, Private Patrick Kelly, were killed in a shoot-out with the kidnap gang when Mr Tidey was rescued.

The High Court made an order in July 2003 preventing the DPP from proceeding with Mc Farlane's trial at the non-jury Special Criminal Court because certain exhibits from which fingerprint evidence was taken had gone missing and were not available for inspection by Mc Farlane or his lawyers. The Supreme Court was told that the case against McFarlane consists of fingerprint evidence and certain alleged admissions made by him to gardaí after his arrest.

At the High Court last month Mr Justice John Quirke dismissed McFarlane's claim and said that any increased levels of stress, anxiety and inconvenience which McFarlane complains of as a result of delays cannot outweigh the community's very considerable interest in having the offences of the gravity such as these prosecuted to a conclusion.

McFarlane had contended he could not receive a fair trial because of "systemic" delays following upon the institution of the judicial review proceedings initiated by him in 1999.

In the High Court in July 2003, in his judgment upholding McFarlane's challenge to his prosecution, Mr Justice Aindrias O'Caoimh made an order prohibiting the prosecution of McFarlane after hearing that a milk carton, a plastic container and a cooking pot found at a hideout where Mr Tidey was imprisoned and on which fingerprints were recovered had gone missing from Garda Headquarters.

However, on April 15 last year the Supreme Court overturned that decision.

While criticising the fact that important evidence in the case had been lost by gardaí, the majority of the Supreme Court said the fingerprints had been photographed and the photos of the impressions were still available.

The court also said there was a forensic examination of the missing items prior to their disappearance and the results of the forensic analysis had been preserved.

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