Ombudsman's action against PSNI settled

Published Friday, 05 September 2014
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A legal action over alleged PSNI obstruction of investigations into 60 murder cases has been settled, it was confirmed in court on Friday.

Ombudsman's action against PSNI settled
Dr Michael Maguire discussed the matter with the PSNI chief constable. (© Pacemaker)

Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire had issued unprecedented judicial review proceedings against the force in an attempt to force it to hand over sensitive intelligence information.

But following talks between Dr Maguire and Chief Constable George Hamilton, the files are now to be released.

Counsel for the Ombudsman, Stephen McQuitty, told the High Court: "I'm pleased to say the matter has been resolved."

Mr Justice Treacy agreed to withdraw the case with no order for costs between the parties.

Dr Maguire launched his legal action back in June against the then Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

He had been seeking the material for probes into recent and historic cases involving allegations of police criminality and misconduct by failing to properly investigate murders.

Claims of collusion between some police officers and the killers feature in many.

According to the Ombudsman his requests for information were turned down on more than 100 occasions.

One of the cases in which the PSNI stood accused of blocking Dr Maguire's staff is the Loughinisland murders where loyalist gunmen shot dead six people as they watched the 1994 World Cup in the village bar.

At a previous hearing the court was told access to material is being sought in up to 19 ongoing investigations.

Lawyers for the oversight body argued that the refusal to hand over the files was irrational and in breach of a memorandum of understanding drawn up to ensure full co-operation.

It was alleged that Ombudsman investigators have been turned away from PSNI buildings as part of the alleged obstruction.

Now, however, the two sides appear to have reached an arrangement for the material to be handed over.

Outside court, Relatives for Justice spokesman Mike Ritchie insisted legal action should never have been necessary.

He said: "We hope with the new Chief Constable this is an indication of a more transparent approach, but we will continue to monitor the matter."

Solicitor Paul Pierce of KRW Law, who represent some of the victims' families, claimed the previous Chief Constable had taken an "obstructive approach" to disclosing information.

"The families seek the truth and this has prevented them from obtaining it," he said. "It remains to be seen whether or not this difficulty will actually be resolved."

© UTV News
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