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Co Armagh man loses appeal over claims police tried to recruit him as ‘informant’

The 40-year-old was stopped by police in Keady carrying rifles in his car

A county Armagh man has failed in his appeal against claims he was approached by police in an attempt to recruit him as an “informer”.

Brian Sheridan, 40, from Blackwatertown on the Armagh/Tyrone border, pleaded guilty in 2011 to offences relating to rifles and handguns being found by in a car in Keady, in which he was travelling.

Press reports at the time suggested that he was a member of the Real IRA or another proscribed organisation, although Sheridan has always denied this. 

He did not explain why the weapons were in the car and did not identify his “friends” who were in the car with him or say what motivated him to commit the offences. 

Sheridan claimed that he was approached by three men while on holiday in Norway with his partner in February 2015. 

The men said they were from the police and wanted to speak to him. 

He said he told them that he didn’t want to speak to them and that the approach caused him “alarm and distress”. 

Sheridan had no further contact with the police until 6am on October 22, 2015 when he was stopped at a police check-point on the Newry Road in Armagh. 

He claimed that an unmarked car pulled up behind him and one of the men who had approached him in Norway got out. 

Sheridan said he consistently told the men that he did not want to speak to them but one gave him a card with a mobile number on it and told him to give him a call.

He then told his solicitor that he felt he was being put at risk by the police publicly seeking to recruit him to provide intelligence and that other members of the community may have perceived wrongly that he was a police informant.   

His solicitor submitted a statement to the Police Ombudsman asking for the matter to be treated as urgent.

On February 22, 2016 the Ombudsman advised Sheridan and his solicitor that the complaint had been rejected on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to support the allegations.

Earlier this year the High Court accepted PSNI officers were probably engaged in a process of seeking to persuade Sheridan to give over information but any activity was regulated by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA).

The appellant challenged these decisions in the Court of Appeal. 

However, the Court of Appeal backed the previous ruling that any advances were covered by the RIPA.

Lord Justice Stephens said: “It is plain that the approaches were regulated and it is plain that the Code does apply, so that the judge was correct to refuse leave in relation to the challenge that the approach was unregulated.”

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