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Pat Finucane Centre accuses police of blocking Ombudsman Derry Four report

The Derry Four, Gerry McGowan, Stephen Kelly, Michael Toner and Stephen Crumlish.
Seamus McKinney

POLICE have been accused of blocking the delivery of a final Police Ombudsman's report into the case of four Derry men wrongly accused of murdering a British soldier.

The case of the Derry Four – Gerry Kelly, Gerry McGowan, Michael Toner and Stephen Crumlish – centred on the Provisional IRA shooting of Lieutenant Steven Kirby in 1979.

The four, who were 17 years old at the time, fled to the Republic when it became clear they would be convicted despite protesting their innocence. In 1998, all charges against the men were dropped and they were able to return to Northern Ireland.

In 2012, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) ordered that two former RUC officers should be charged in connection with the case.

However, the case collapsed after the PPS offered no evidence. As a result, the Police Ombudsman referred its handling of the case to the PSNI to investigate if any of its staff had broken the law.

The PSNI investigation – which is being boycotted by the Derry Four and the PFC – means the four men cannot be given the final Police Ombudsman’s report, according to Pat Finucane Centre spokesman, Paul O’Connor.

Mr O’Connor accused the PSNI of putting the Derry 4 case to "the back of the queue" after Policing Board independent member, Catherine Pollock was told the case would be considered in line with other policing demands.

Mr O’Connor said the police as an institution was charged with investigating how the case against the Derry Four was handled despite the fact that the four men were victims of police abuse.

He said the situation could not be "more bizarre."

"Over a year and a half later, the PSNI have confirmed that they have other priorities and the case of the Derry Four has been put to the back of the queue.

"This means in effect that the Derry Four, the victims in this sordid affair, are unable to receive their final report from the Police Ombudsman.”"

The PFC spokesman said the PSNI had not communicated with the Derry Four in the last 18 months and he accused police of making no attempt to pursue the investigation.

"This impasse is unacceptable," Mr O’Connor said.

The PSNI did not respond to a request for a comment on Monday night.

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