IRA spy says trial put him in danger

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The Independent Online
A prosecution against one of Britain's chief IRA spies for trying to pervert the course of justice - which failed yesterday with his acquittal - should never have been brought, according to his lawyers.

Martin McGartland, who has lived under the name Martin Ashe for the past six years, was charged after using duplicate driving licences to avoid a driving ban for speeding.

Mr McGartland, 27 and a father-of-two, claimed he was in fear of a terrorist death squad when he used the licences. A jury at Newcastle Crown Court took just 10 minutes to find the author of Fifty Dead Men Walking, which is fast rising up the best-seller lists, not guilty at the end of a five- day trial.

After the trial, the legal firm which represented Mr McGartland issued a statement criticising the moves which brought him to court and exposed him to danger. "It is Mr McGartland's view that the prosecution should never have been brought in light of his services to the public in Northern Ireland," it said. "The prosecution has exposed him to further danger, which his resettlement on the mainland was meant to avoid.

"Mr McGartland believes that the prosecution was brought with total disregard for his own safety and that the Crown showed no insight into the real and imagined dangers encountered by those living in the shadow of the IRA."

The statement added that Mr McGartland will now have to start a new life all over again.