The Special Criminal Court ruled today that an alleged admission by former IRA leader Brendan "Bik" McFarlane that he was at the wood where kidnapped supermarket executive Don Tidey was held captive for 23 days almost 25 years ago cannot be admitted in evidence.
Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding, said the court had considered a defence application to have the alleged admission made by McFarlane while in custody in Dundalk garda station in 1998 ruled inadmissible.
Gardaí who interviewed McFarlane alleged that he told them: "I was there. You can prove that but I won't talk about it" when asked about his involvement in the events at Derrada Wood in 1983.
Mr Justice Butler said that taking into account the denials and refusals of McFarlane to answer questions on the advice of his solicitor, McFarlane's own denial in evidence that he had made the admission, and the defects in recording the statement, the court had a doubt and must give the benefit of the doubt to the accused.
The judge said that the interviews with McFarlane were carried out a decade ago according to the norms of that time but were not in accordance with the regulations of that time in that some answers of the accused were not recorded and the statements were not dated. He said this issue would not arise if the practise of today where interviews are recorded by video had been in force.
It was the tenth day of the trial of McFarlane, a 56-year-old father-of-three of Jamaica St, Belfast who has denied the false imprisonment of Mr Don Tidey between November 24 and December 16, 1983.
He also denies possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life at Derrada Wood, Drumcroman, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim between November 25 and December 16, 1983 and the unlawful possession of a firearm between the same dates.
McFarlane took over as Office Commanding the IRA prisoners at the Maze prison at the time of the IRA hunger strike in 1981 and escaped in a mass break-out by 38 prisoners in September, 1983. He was later arrested in Amsterdam in 1986, extradited back to the North and released on parole in 1997.
A recruit garda Gary Sheehan (aged 20), of Co Monaghan and a soldier Private Patrick Kelly (aged 35) from Co Westmeath were killed in a shoot out with the kidnap gang when Mr Tidey was rescued from the remote wood in Co Leitrim.
Following the court's ruling, prosecuting counsel Mr Edward Comyn SC applied for some time to take instructions.
The court will resume this afternoon.
The court has been told that the only evidence against McFarlane was the alleged admission and fingerpint evidence found on items at Derrada Wood.