Unsolved murder probes 'tainted'

Published Tuesday, 25 September 2012
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The rehiring of retired RUC officers to assist in probes into unsolved murders taints the entire process in illegality, the High Court has heard.

Unsolved murder probes 'tainted'
Raymond McCord Jnr was murdered in 1999. (© Pacemaker)

Lawyers for the mother of a former RAF man killed by a loyalist gang headed by a police agent claimed the arrangements should not be allowed.

Vivienne McCord's 22-year-old son, Raymond McCord Jnr, was found beaten to death in 1997.

His killing was at the centre of a damning report by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan.

The report established evidence that rogue Special Branch officers colluded with a north Belfast UVF unit responsible for up to 16 murders.

Mrs McCord fears that bringing ex-policemen back in to help with historicial inquiries may thwart efforts to establish the full circumstances surrounding her son's death.

On Tuesday, her legal team launched their bid to judicially review the Chief Constable's policy of contracting former officers who left with redundancy packages under the Patten reforms.

Frank O'Donoghue QC told the court: "The content of the Operation Ballast report by the Police Ombudsman identified the very high likelihood that there was an arrangement going on between those apparently responsible for his [Mr McCord's] murder, and members of the RUC, in other words informers being involved.

"We are into a situation in this case of former RUC officers coming back into the PSNI to investigate historical murders where the conduct of the RUC is the matter under investigation.

"That is in principle wrong and defeats the whole objective of change in the arrangements of policing that took place over 10 years ago."

Mr O'Donoghue had no evidence that any of the rehired officers were actually working on the McCord investigation.

But he stressed: "The substance of the applicant's case is that the entire process is tainted with illegality."

The court was told that these support staff brought in under a statutory scheme should only be involved in detention and escort duties.

Tony McGleenan QC, for the Chief Constable, contended that Mrs McCord should have inquired whether any former RUC officers were involved in the investigation into her son's murder.

He claimed it was wrong to instead subject entire police employment practices to scrutiny.

Mr McGleenan warned that if the judicial review succeeded it could result in police being "paralysed" in attempts to contract anyone for service work.

"The Chief Constable will not be able to get someone to come and change a fuse in police headquarters," he said.

According to the barrister, agency workers have been brought in to assist in so-called legacy inquiries, but not in an investigative role.

He also disputed claims that there was no legislative power for such a move, contending that Parliament has allowed for it.

Mr Justice Treacy, who heard the application for leave to seek a full judicial review, reserved his judgment.

© UTV News
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