BCSN Comment: Who Guards the Guards?
4 former RUC Special Branch members and a former RUC intelligence officer chosen by PSNI Chief Constable to prepare sensitive Shoot-to-Kill Documents; review team members served with witnesses, with one team member having served with up to 52 potential inquest witnesses. Ministry of Defence resists family of victims’ requests for military advisers who sat in on police interviews to be called as witnesses.
Previously, the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, acting on the advice of the PSNI’s Historical Enquries Team, refused to allow access to public records asked for in a Freedom of Information request made on behalf of families of men shot by loyalists.
This is the same PSNI who are abusing the MLAT procedure to demand access to the Boston College Oral History archives. Why is the US Department of Justice and Obama Administration facilitating this?
‘Bias’ claim over killings probe
31 MAY 2013
An inquiry is looking into six alleged shoot-to-kill incidents
A former police officer selected to trawl through top-secret information on some of Northern Ireland’s most controversial killings served with 52 potential inquest witnesses, it has been revealed in court.
He is part of a team made up of four former RUC Special Branch members and an ex-RUC intelligence officer chosen by the chief constable to prepare sensitive documents relating to six alleged shoot-to-kill incidents involving the security forces more than 30 years ago. He has been charged with reading and redacting information from classified material due to be disclosed to the families of those shot dead.
A preliminary hearing at Belfast’s Old Town Hall also heard that two other members of the research team served with 10 potential witnesses; another worked alongside 21 potential witnesses; and a fifth knew one potential witness.
Barrister Karen Quinlivan QC, who is representing relatives of those killed, described it as “breathtaking” that police were investigating police. “They served alongside each other for years and presumably had confidence in their abilities. This is not only institutional bias but actual bias,” she said.
Ms Quinlivan said ongoing problems with disclosure meant the process had been “held up” and “dragged out” beyond expectation. She also claimed the families had very little confidence in the disclosure process. “We remain extremely concerned about the personalities involved in this case,” added the lawyer.
Barrister Fiona Doherty, who is also acting for some of the next of kin, raised concerns around delays with disclosure. “This is a serious issue. It is an issue that is going to have to be dealt with sooner rather than later,” she said.
The case involves six people shot dead by the security forces during the 1980s amid claims there was a deliberate intention to kill them. IRA men Sean Burns, Eugene Toman and Gervaise McKerr were killed near Lurgan, Co Armagh, in November 1982.
Catholic teenager Michael Tighe was shot dead by police at a hay shed near Craigavon, Co Armagh, in November 1982 and suspected INLA men Roddy Carroll and Seamus Grew were fatally wounded near Armagh in December of the same year.
Tony McGleenan QC, barrister for the PSNI, described the scale of the disclosure as vast. He said up to 82 boxes of material containing tens of thousands of pages had to be considered by counsel, the chief constable and the minister for justice before being handed to the coroner for consideration of relevance. The next preliminary hearing is due to take place in July.
An investigation into whether police set out to kill was carried out in the years after the incidents by former Greater Manchester Police deputy chief constable John Stalker and Sir Colin Sampson of West Yorkshire Police. The Stalker and Sampson reports were long classified top secret but the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) finally handed over edited versions to the coroner in 2010 after a lengthy legal battle. The reports were then passed to lawyers for the families.
Advisers plea over 1984 shootings
31 MAY 2013
Attorney General John Larkin ordered a new inquest into the deaths of two suspected IRA men almost 30 years ago
Military advisers who sat in on police interviews with SAS soldiers involved in the ambush and killing of two suspected IRA men almost 30 years ago could be called to give evidence at their inquests.
Daniel Doherty, 23, and William Fleming, 19, were shot dead in the grounds of the Gransha Hospital in Londonderry in December 1984. It was alleged that the pair, who were both from the city, were planning to carry out an attack on an off-duty Ulster Defence Regiment soldier when the SAS opened fire.
An original inquest was held two years after the shootings but in 2010 Northern Ireland’s Attorney General John Larkin ordered another hearing after finding that police documents had been withheld from the coroner at the time.
At a preliminary hearing in Belfast’s Old Town Hall, lawyers representing the families of the two men requested the identification of Army legal advisers or senior soldiers who routinely accompanied the rank and file during police interviews.
“The soldier or soldiers who attended interviews should be identified – given a cipher – and should make a statement on their role,” said barrister Karen Quinlivan QC.
She said there were concerns about an alleged military policy which directed soldiers to only provide the minimum amount of information required for the police investigation. Ms Quinlivan said it was also important to know whether the advisers involved in this case had attended police interviews relating to other lethal force deaths.
“There are broad issues. Soldiers were engaged in lethal force and the state – Army legal services and the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) – operated to ensure that they were not held accountable,” she said.
There were also requests for military intelligence files on the IRA suspects to be handed over to their families’ legal teams. “We know that there was intelligence in advance, it is obviously relevant to the circumstances. The question is whether it has been used as a shoot-to-kill policy,” said Ms Quinlivan.
Peter Coll, acting for the Ministry of Defence, claimed the families’ lawyers were embarking on a “fishing expedition” and questioned the relevance of advisers’ roles in other lethal force incidents. “This is putting the cart before the horse. Particularly, we do not know if military advisers were involved,” he said.
Fiona Doherty, barrister for the Coroners Service, said anything which could have affected the quality of evidence gathered at the time of the killings would be relevant to the inquest.
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