PSNI Seeks Boston Tapes But Covers Up Own Crimes

This report from the BBC’s Vincent Kearney should be filed under ‘PSNI hypocrisy’:

 

NI’s chief constable accused of obstructing Troubles’ investigations

NI’s chief constable is being taken to court over claims he obstructed Police Ombudsman investigations into allegations against the police in 60 murders.

The action has been brought by NI’s Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire.

He is attempting to force the chief constable to hand over sensitive intelligence material.

The PSNI said it believed it had responded appropriately to each request on a case-by-case basis.

Mr Maguire said he had no option because he had received more than 100 refusals for information.

He said the material was needed for his investigators to do their jobs.

This is an unprecedented legal action by the police ombudsman (PONI).

Mr Maguire claimed Chief Constable Matt Baggott was making it impossible to investigate allegations of serious criminal activity and misconduct.

“At this point in time, the police have refused us access to 100 pieces of information involving investigations surrounding in the region of 60 murders,” he told the BBC.

‘Complex investigations’

“I find that unacceptable and we have no other choice but to take legal action against the chief constable.

“We’re talking about complex investigations into over 60 murders where there have been allegations of police criminality and misconduct in relation to their failure to investigate those murders; the fact that they may well have been protecting individuals involved in those murders.

“Answering those questions requires access to quite a range of intelligence and other sensitive material. I need access to that in order to be able to come to a view, in order to determine whether they are right or not.”

The Heights bar in Loughinisland (Six men were shot dead by the UVF at the Heights Bar in 1994)

The ombudsman said the problem had emerged in recent months.

He launched the legal action against Mr Baggott after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) failed to meet a deadline for handing over information requested.

The BBC understands that the investigations the chief constable is accused of obstructing include the murders of six Catholic men shot dead by the UVF as they watched a Republic of Ireland World Cup game in the Heights Bar in Loughinisland 20 years ago.

No-one has ever been convicted.

It has been claimed that the RUC did not conduct a proper investigation because they were protecting an informer, and that there was collusion between some police officers and the killers.

A report by the previous police ombudsman, Al Hutchinson, concluded that the RUC failed to properly investigate what happened at Loughinisland, but said there was insufficient evidence of collusion.

Those findings were quashed after a legal challenge by relatives of those who were killed.

Mr Maguire is now conducting a fresh investigation.

The chief constable stands accused of obstructing him by refusing to hand over intelligence material, including details about police informers that the ombudsman said was essential for him to do his job.

Mr Maguire said he was legally entitled to the information.

“The Police Ombudsman’s office does not do investigations by negotiation,” he said.

Constable Colleen McMurray
(Constable Colleen McMurray was killed by an IRA mortar bomb in 1992)

“This is fundamental to the independence of the office and the requirement for me to undertake a very clear and robust, independent investigation. In order to be able to do that, I need access to all areas of police activity to allow my investigators to come to a judgement about what happened.

“This gets to the core of independence, it gets to the core of accountability. We cannot have a situation where those who are the subject of investigation will determine what information is given to those who are undertaking that investigation.”

It is understood other cases the chief constable is accused of blocking include incidents where police officers have been killed.

Colleen McMurray died and a colleague was seriously injured when their car was hit by a mortar in Newry, County Down, in March 1992.

It has been claimed that the RUC’s Special Branch had advance warning about the attack, and that at least two IRA informers were involved.

Other cases are much more recent – and involve serious allegations against members of the PSNI.

“This is not just about the past, this is about a range of cases that both go before the Good Friday Agreement and come after the Good Friday Agreement, so it relates to the RUC and the PSNI,” he explained.

“That’s why it’s extremely important in the context of an ombudsman’s office which is there to provide an independent and robust investigation.

“I cannot allow a situation which is a challenge to the authority of the office, which is a challenge to the independence of that office, to allow that to happen.”

In a statement, the PSNI said it was seeking to agree a solution with the ombudsman about what it called “complicated and, sometimes, competing legal issues”.

“The PSNI has a legal responsibility for the care and management of all information that it holds – this is a responsibility which must be taken extremely seriously,” the statement said.

Chief Constable Matt Baggott (The PSNI, which is headed by Mr Baggott, said it would continue to work with PONI to “seek to get an agreement over our respective obligations”)

“At the same time the PSNI also recognises the statutory responsibility to provide information to the Police Ombudsman, enabling exercise of his functions and legal responsibilities.

“We will continue to fulfil our legal obligations with the primary consideration being that of protecting life in accordance with Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

“PSNI will continue to work with PONI to seek to get an agreement over our respective obligations and ensure we both have shared understanding of the legal framework.

The ombudsman is being represented by Sir Keir Starmer QC, the former director of public prosecutions for England and Wales, and a former human rights advisor to the policing board, which holds the PSNI to account.

The Policing Board said in a statement: “Police cooperation and the provision of information to the institutions with legislative responsibility for delivering independent oversight and accountability of the PSNI is critical.

“The application for leave for judicial review by the Police Ombudsman is very significant and a matter of great concern.”

Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane said the police’s refusal to provide information to the ombudsman was “entirely unacceptable”.

“This is affecting several key and high profile cases in which families such as those in Loughinisland are seeking the truth and it will damage overall confidence in the PSNI,” she said.

“It is therefore not surprising that the ombudsman has been forced to take this action against Matt Baggott.

“We commend him for exhausting every avenue to conclude on these investigations despite the barriers being put in place and support victims and survivors and their families.”

SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie said she supported the ombudsman’s action, having worked to pursue the truth for the families killed in the Loughinisland shootings.

“Unfortunately, the Police Ombudsman’s office has reached the point where they have to take this legal action in pursuit of the truth for the families and victims and to protect the independence and good name of their office,” she said.

“This is due to the fact that the chief constable and senior officers have refused to cooperate with the Police Ombudsman’s investigating officers.

“In so doing they are obfuscating this and other inquiries into historical cases thus preventing truth and justice for the families and the wider community. It is also quite clear that they are interfering with the independence of the Police Ombudsman.”

15 responses to “PSNI Seeks Boston Tapes But Covers Up Own Crimes

  1. You’ve gotta be fucking joking. Ohhhh, we have a duty to get to the truth about the past!

    Fucking assholes.

  2. The police always tell us we should respect and obey the law!

    But now we have the PSNI ignoring and breaking the law, showing us that there is no difference between them and the RUC. Matt Baggott illegally brought a large number of ex-RUC personnel back in civilian roles so they wouldn’t have to take any oath of allegiance and they could get up to their old tricks of one-sided policing again, with the blessing of the Chief Constable.

    Have we ever had a clearer illustration of the veracity of the Dissidents claim that nothing had changed in regard to policing.

    We can understand the unionist parties saying nothing about this at the Policing Board, but why have Sinn Fein and the SDLP not raised a stink about this crucial matter.

    We can only hope that legal measures immediately go ahead before Baggott escapes under the guise of resignation and he is found guilty and faces a lengthy prison sentence for his blatant abuse of power.

    Would it not only be justice to see him behind bars?

  3. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke!

  4. The chickenshittedness of Sinn Fein leadership becomes hard to avoid.

  5. smart move by Sinn Fein…..just sit back & watch… let all the attention fall where it should

    • i’m not sure i follow the logic of that, sabina. support for the PSNI is a central plank of sinn fein’s strategy and here is the PSNI disgracing itself. by staying silent it suggests SF wants to avoid having to criticise the PSNI because doing so would question the wisdom of ever supporting it……

  6. Ed,always in these matters, I defer to your expertise on all of this. However, Sinn Fein realizes the need to support the PSNI –seeing it as crucial to keeping the peace. After Martin McGuinnesss said that Sinn Fein might be reconsidering their support of the PSNI following the arrest and detention of Adams, Adams quickly reiterated Sinn Fein’s support of the PSNI. Think Sinn Fein has to be very careful of any criticism of PSNI because that could be misinterpreted & used against them–it is a delicate balance-in my opinion. So, I would think that whether or not Sinn Fein made a statement re this-outrageous lack of cooperation with the Police Ombudsman–the strategy or the decision to remain silent–was well thought out. However, this could also be interpreted as being selective-as to when the PSNI is biased or unfair…I think the situation is so obvious-with the Ombudsman taking the PSNI to court–that it speaks for itself.

    • a threat to withdraw support for the psni would be a very powerful weapon. i suspect GA does not want to use it because his priority is to get into govt in the south and rejecting the psni could threaten that. so power in the south comes first, before justice in the north.

  7. Afterthought: and this is the point I was trying to make–let the PSNI hang themselves in plain sight

    • sabina, the PSNI are covering up their part in some 60 killings, one being the slaughter of innocent people watching a soccer match during the world cup which a PSNI agent helped carry out. and the SF leadership hasn’t yet said a single word of concern!?!? you are making excuses for them.

  8. Ed, making excuses for SF did not ever occur to me. Just trying to interpret their reason for remaining silent–something must be at work behind the scenes. But how could one be expected to publicly support a police force involved in such atrocities. On that, I agree.

    • i’m relieved to hear that sabina. wouldn’t be your usual form! however it is not just SF which is ignoring this scandal but also the bulk of the irish media, the BBC’s vincent kearney being the almost sole exception…..

  9. Gerry Adams has spent the week posting on Twitter that he’s working at Stormont, where he doesn’t actually have a job. I think he means to communicate that he’s working on the resolution to these very questions, but doing it quietly. Anyway,

  10. Got distracted by email and didn’t finish the thought, which was, anyway, to be a fly on the wall at Stormont this week….

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