Walker Report published online

The Walker Report was made public yesterday
The Walker Report was made public yesterday

A REPORT into the operations of the RUC Special Branch has been made public.

The Walker Report was commissioned by former RUC chief constable Jack Hermon in 1980 and focused on the handling of agents, informers and intelligence.

Although the existence of the report has been known about since 2001 it has never officially been made public.

Its author, Sir Patrick Walker, was a senior MI5 officer who served as its director general before retiring in 1992.

Earlier this year the PSNI agreed to release a partially redacted version of the document after a freedom of information request from the Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ).

The report was published on the organisation’s website yesterday.

Walker suggested that any agents recruited by detectives, namely CID, should be handed over to Special Branch and if this was not possible, agents should be jointly handled.

The former MI5 man also recommended that plans to carry out arrests “must be cleared with Special Branch to ensure that no agents, either RUC or army, are involved.”

The report concluded that CID “should not proceed immediately to a charge whenever an admission has been obtained”.

In the past concerns have been raised that Special Branch informers involved with paramilitary groups were allowed to continue with their activities.

Deputy Director of the Committee for the Administration of Justice (CAJ) Daniel Holder last night said the report was “the blueprint for making RUC Special Branch a ‘force within a force.’”

“It radically altered the structures of the RUC, centralising enormous power within Special Branch which controlled everything from forensics to who was arrested and charged,” he said.

“This structure facilitated the primacy of intelligence over prosecution, the authorisation of agents and informants to commit serious crime and in some cases collusion between Special Branch and illegal armed groups.”

Mr Holder said there are long standing concerns over the handling of informers.

“Our concern has long been that the approach to informant handling in the past was outside of the law and violated human rights.

“The system established by the Walker Report not only fuelled and prolonged the conflict, but left a poisonous legacy that makes dealing with the past more difficult in the face of relentless attempts to conceal the impact of such practices ever since.”

The PSNI agreed to make the report’s contents public ahead of a sitting of the First Tier (Information Rights) Tribunal in Belfast in May.

An initial CAJ request for information was rejected by the PSNI, which applied an exemption claiming the contents related to MI5.

This was later upheld by the Information Commissioner's Office.