Wiltshire Police challenged on 'hitman threat' silence

A businessman is challenging a police refusal to give him information about a tip-off they received that his life was in danger from a contract gunman.

Motor trader Michael Austen, from Cricklade, said the chief constable of Wiltshire refused to give him details he says he needs to protect himself.

A High Court judge gave him permission to apply for a judicial review.

Police expressed concern in court that Mr Austen might use the information to "take the law into his own hands".

Mr Austen wants to know the identities of the police informant, the gunman and an individual to whom he is alleged to owe money.

'Stunning silence'

Lawyers for the police said handing over names could also infringe the human rights of others and the Data Protection Act.

But Mr Justice Charles, sitting in London, ruled the police had so far "simply failed to give coherent reasons" for the refusal.

They might have a very good reason not to provide information, but there had been "a stunning silence" on the part of the police and the application must go to a full hearing, ruled the judge.

Outside court, Mr Austen, 30, welcomed the judge's decision and said: "The police accepted there is an immediate threat but they won't tell us anything about it."

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