Judge delivers indictment of PSNI in Glenanne case
The High Court ruling by Mr Justice Seamus Treacy yesterday was not only an indictment of the PSNI's approach to a case involving allegations of collusion and murder on an enormous scale but also a vindication of bereaved relatives who have fought long and hard for answers.
It is a significant judgment which once again places the spotlight on the investigation of legacy killings and raises questions about the police service's commitment to ensuring the full truth about historic cases is finally revealed.
The notorious Glenanne gang operated during the 1970s and 80s and is believed to be responsible for around 130 sectarian murders, including the Miami Showband massacre and many other atrocities.
Crucially, this UVF group also contained members of the RUC and UDR and allegations of security force collusion go to the heart of this disturbing case.
As we know, families have long been frustrated in their attempts to discover the full circumstances of how relatives died and the extent of the collusion between police officers, serving soldiers and loyalist paramilitaries.
Many murders, particularly from the early years of the Troubles, were inadequately investigated at the time and
while it was not perfect, the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) set up by Hugh Orde was at least a process that allowed for the reopening of cases and any available information provided to relatives.
The HET investigation into the activities of the Glenanne gang was 80 per cent completed when the PSNI decided to halt the team's work.
This decision was sharply criticised by Mr Justice Treacy yesterday who ruled that the police failure to conduct an overarching examination of the extent of state collusion with the Glenanne gang was `fundamentally inconsistent' with its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights.
The judge was particularly scathing about former chief constable Matt Baggott and expressed `very grave concern' at decisions apparently taken by him to `dismantle and abandon' long held principles.
``There is a real risk that this will fuel in the minds of the families the fear that the state has resiled from its public commitments because it is not genuinely committed to addressing the unresolved concerns that the families have of state involvement,'' said Mr Justice Treacy.
Given that bereaved families have experienced so many setbacks, delays and barriers in their search for the truth, yesterday's legal victory came as something of a surprise.
There was no hiding the delight that many felt at this judgment but it is also intolerable that people who have suffered so much have to fight so hard for a proper investigation into more than 100 murders.
It is clear the families will not give up but the onus is on the state to fulfil its obligations to the truth.