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File theft — action against PPS taken

(Irish News)

A US citizen questioned about the theft of Special Branch files from a police station nearly four years ago is taking legal action against the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

Larry Zaitschek – nicknamed 'Larry the Chef' – was interviewed by police in Belfast and New York soon after the raid at Castlereagh on St Patrick's Day 2002 but has not been charged.

He now wants the PPS to tell him whether or not he is to be prosecuted and his solicitor Kevin Winters yesterday (Thursday) lodged judicial review papers in Belfast's High Court.

Mr Zaitschek – who worked in the canteen at Castlereagh in east Belfast for seven years – flew to New York five days after the raid, which deeply embarrassed security chiefs and was blamed on the IRA.

He returned briefly in January 2004 and now wants to come back to Northern Ireland to contest family proceedings in relation to access to his son, who he believes is with his estranged wife Lisa.

The High Court papers stated that a police investigation file was sent to the PPS on September 10 2002 but no decision has yet been taken about a prosecution.

"The manifest delay in taking this decision is wholly unjust and contrary to natural justice and prevents the applicant from returning to Northern Ireland in the safe belief that he will not be subject either to arrest or to criminal prosecution," the papers stated.

"No warrant has been issued for the applicant's arrest nor has any extradition application been made. In spite of this, neither the PPS nor the PSNI has made any active representations to the applicant that he will not be arrested and detained if he returns to Northern Ireland.

"The failure of the PPS to reach a decision within three years and five months constitutes manifest delay, gross unfairness and a breach of natural justice.

"Mr Zaitschek feels he has no alternative but to bring this case because he has been unable to see his child for four years.

"It is very unfair for him that his child has been used as some sort of political pawn."

Before a judicial review can proceed a judge has to grant leave and it is expected that this preliminary hearing will take place next week.

February 18, 2006

This article appeared first in the February 17, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

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