Belief Evidence and Informer Privilege: Revisited in Strasbourg

AuthorColin King
DOI10.1350/ijep.2014.18.4.465
Published date01 October 2014
Date01 October 2014
Subject MatterCase Note
CASE NOTE
BELIEF EVIDENCE AND INFORMER PRIVILEGE: REVISITED
CASE NOTE
Belief evidence and informer
privilege: revisited in Strasbourg
By Colin King*
School of Law, University of Manchester
Keywords Opinion evidence; Unlawful organisation; Innocence-at-stake;
Adverse inferences; Corroboration; Disclosure
elief evidence of a senior police officer is a key tool in the Irish approach
to prosecuting terrorist activities. While belief evidence has been
subjected to criticism, the use of such evidence has received judicial
imprimatur. Having been endorsed by the Irish Supreme Court in 2006, it was only
a matter of time before such evidence would be challenged in the European Court
of Human Rights. Belief evidence was considered by the Strasbourg Court in
Donohoe vIreland,1where the focus was on a claim of privilege over the source of a
police officer’s belief. In a somewhat timid judgment, the European Court of
Human Rights held that the claim of privilege did not render the applicant’s trial
unfair.
Informer privilege
In DPP vSpecial Criminal Court O’Flaherty J stated:
I hold that the informer’s privilege is of ancient origin and that it is
essential for the prevention and detection of crime and, therefore, the
preservation of law and order that that privilege should remain
intact; subject only to the ‘innocence at stake’ exception.2
doi:10.1350/ijep.2014.18.4.465
340 (2014) 18 E&P 340–352 THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF EVIDENCE & PROOF
B
1 Application No. 19165/08, 12 December 2013. Note that the spelling of the applicant’s name was
Donohue in the domestic proceedings, but Donohoe before the Strasbourg Court.
2 [1999] 1 IR 60 at 87.
* Email: colin.king@manchester.ac.uk.

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