Northern Ireland

Anti-corruption PSNI officers face criminal investigation over expenses claims

Separately, seven serving or former police officers now alleging illegal covert surveillance carried out by anti-corruption unit

Up to 18 incidents are covered in PSNI surveillance report
Five former or serving police officers have made complaints over illegal surveillance by anti-corruption unit on top of two previous high profile cases

Two former anti-corruption PSNI officers are under a formal criminal investigation over claims of misconduct in public office, misuse of funds and false accounting.

The allegations stem from information revealed during a case taken by two former high level police officers who claimed they were subject to illegal surveillance that included the continuous tapping of telephones during an investigation into alleged corruption involving vehicle contracts.

Separately, The Irish News understands a further five former and serving PSNI officers have filed claims with the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), the London-based body charged with investigating and ruling on allegations in connection with covert surveillance. The officers are claiming they were the subject of illegal surveillance.

Former Detective Chief Superintendent Tim Hanley told The Irish News he believes there were breaches of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), the legislation covering surveillance.

Retired PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland
Retired PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland

Mr Hanley, at one time the most senior detective in Northern Ireland, said he believed the wider “mess” around the alleged inappropriate and potentially illegal surveillance was in part due to the lack of oversight by senior management.

There was also a failure to properly use service’s covert authorities bureau (CAB), the internal unit managing the deployment of covert tactics, he added.

These are the latest revelations in a long running saga that first publicly emerged with the arrests in June, 2014, of former Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland and the naming of one time West Yorkshire Chief Constable Mark Gilmore in connection with a corruption investigation.

That investigation was officially launched as Operation Henley in January that year but it stretched back on an unofficial basis to 2012.

At the core of the potential criminal charges are expenses claims relating to supposed meetings with an informant who formerly worked at the PSNI’s Newforge sports and social club complex in south Belfast.

Following initial inquiries, the Police Ombudsman has decided to launch a formal criminal investigation. The office confirmed the investigation has commenced.

“A decision has been made to commence a criminal investigation in respect of complaints made about a number of former officers, following the disclosure of alleged police expenditure on ‘inducements’ as part of matters brought before an Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT),” the ombudsman’s office said.

Retired police chief Mark Gilmore
Retired police chief Mark Gilmore

The claimed expenses include dinners, hotel rooms and rugby tickets, almost all relating to meetings with the single claimed informant.

Details of the expenses emerged during an IPT case taken by Mr McCausland and Mr Gilmore, a former PSNI officer. The two officers claimed they were subject to illegal covert surveillance during the investigation into alleged corruption and bribery over vehicle contracts.

Mr McCausland was arrested and questioned, while Mr Gilmore was suspended from his job and never returned to the role. Seven others, one serving police officer and six civilians, were also arrested in June, 2014.

By late 2015 the Public Prosecution Service had directed no charges be brought against any of those investigated. Mr Gilmore was publicly cleared in October, 2014, just months after he was was named in connection with the investigation.

The two former senior officers took their case to the IPT but in December, 2022, the PSNI abruptly dropped its defence against the action and are believed to have paid compensation and legal costs.

Mr McCausland and Mr Gilmore are taking a separate civil case against the PSNI seeking damages and an apology claiming they were wrongfully targeted and that senior police officers have failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing around the investigation.

Former PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said some IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan (Niall Carson/PA)
Former PSNI chief constable Sir George Hamilton (Niall Carson/PA)

Sir George Hamilton, the PSNI Chief Constable in 2014, told BBC Spotlight last year he was “satisfied with the integrity and professionalism of the investigation” into the corruption and bribery allegations.

In a statement, the PSNI said the service “has already publicly accepted in its statement to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) that it breached its internal policy regarding the reviews that should have been performed when a member of the public submits intelligence on multiple occasions in relation to Operation Henley”.

“That breach of policy had already been addressed as a result of the 2016 Office of Surveillance Commissioners (OSC) report which identified concerns with the oversight and handling of ‘covert human intelligence sources’ (CHIS) by the Source Handling Unit (SHU).

“An Action Plan was developed to address the recommendation which was noted as discharged by the OSC in its subsequent 2017 inspection.” The OSC was the oversight body for covert activities, later replaced by the Investigatory Powers Commission.”

The PSNI did not comment on the five further complaints to the IPT.

The two former senior officers are not commenting while their civil case is ongoing but a source close to the pair said they have endured ten years of “hurt of being defamed, their reputation being destroyed while knowing they were totally innocent of any wrong doing”.

According to documents seen by The Irish News, the allegations against the two retired anti-corruption officers under investigation by the PONI amount to potential “theft, misconduct in public office, misuse of public funds and false accounting”.

It is linked to the claiming on approximately 70 separate occasions expenses in excess of £5,000 for hotel rooms, tickets to rugby games and meals.

Many of the meals were consumed at the now closed Cargoes Restaurant on Belfast’s Lisburn Road, a relatively inexpensive breakfast and lunch outlet but where the expenses claims in some cases were for over £100.

PACEMAKER BELFAST  28/03/2018.Kingspan Stadium Home of Ulster Rugby..
Over £1,000 in claims for rugby tickets, mostly for Ulster games, are listed as expenses .

The claims also include a £295 bill from Deane’s in the city centre and one for £309 at Neill’s Hill on the Upper Newtownards Road. Tickets and travel for rugby games totalled over £1,100, according to the documents.

In material provided to the IPT, the supposed covert human intelligence source (CHIS), has denied attending matches, being taken out for meals or meeting in hotel rooms.

Questions remain over whether the individual was registered as an informant as he should have under PSNI rules and regulations.

More than 60 allegations made by Mr McCausland and Mr Gilmore about the wider bribery investigation were previously investigated by the ombudsman’s office.

The two have alleged the investigation was a “fishing exercise” contaminated with investigative bias and prejudice and that the arrest of Mr McCausland and involving Mr Gilmore were unlawful.

Among the officers investigated were now former Chief Constables Sir George and Sir Matt Baggot, former Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris, the current Garda Commissioner, and ten others, including the incoming chief executive of the ombudsman’s office, Hugh Hume.

Drew Harris has issued a directive to Garda members to spend 30 minutes of each shift on roads policing
Former Deputy Chief Constable, now Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris (Niall Carson/PA)

The then Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire found no evidence that any of the named officers were involved in criminality or misconduct.

However, Mr McCausland and Mr Gilmore are understood to have argued the IPT case adds weight to their calls for the police ombudsman to re-open the investigation, at least into certain elements of their original claims.

It was noted the original investigation was completed in May, 2018, approximately six months after opened, an arguably very short time for such a complex probe.

The police ombudsman will not be re-opening the previous investigation, Marie Anderson’s office said.

The Irish News made unsuccessful efforts to make contact with the two officers under criminal investigation.

One of the two previously said the expense figures are “a conflation of different records” and “as I read it there are inaccuracies”.