Northern Ireland

Victims' relatives welcome judge's decision to step aside in Loughinisland case

Emma Rogan, daughter of Loughinisland victim Adrian Rogan, with victims' relatives at the High Court in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Emma Rogan, daughter of Loughinisland victim Adrian Rogan, with victims' relatives at the High Court in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann Emma Rogan, daughter of Loughinisland victim Adrian Rogan, with victims' relatives at the High Court in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

VICTIMS' relatives and nationalist politicians have welcomed a judge's decision to step aside from a case challenging the Police Ombudsman's findings of collusion in the Loughinisland massacre.

In another dramatic day at Belfast's High Court, Mr Justice McCloskey said the judicial review should be re-run in front of another judge to ensure families retain confidence in the legal system.

The senior judge last month delivered a landmark verdict in the case taken by two retired policemen, ruling that the ombudsman's conclusions were procedurally unfair.

However, lawyers for the watchdog and relatives of those killed argued that he should withdraw before making a final order due to a potential perception of subconscious bias, based on his role as a barrister in a similar case 16 years ago.

Mr Justice McCloskey yesterday said the legal test for him to step aside had not been met but the families had "become engulfed in a maelstrom" and “our legal system will not have served the families well if they are not given the opportunity of having this case heard by a differently constituted court”.

Niall Murphy, solicitor for the Loughinisland families said it was "the most unprecedented resolution to a judicial review application that I have ever experienced in my years in practice".

"What we have now is an opportunity for the Police Ombudsman and the families to re-engage in a brand new reflection of the legal issues raised and we look forward to doing that as quickly as possible."

Emma Rogan, whose father Adrian was one of the six men killed in the UVF gun attack on the Heights Bar in 1994, said the families welcome a new judge taking a look at the case.

"We are delighted that our report still stands in its entirety - the (ombudsman's) report that we got in 2016 is still the report that's on record."

She added: "I will be here fighting for truth and justice until I have no fight left in me."

The SDLP's Dolores Kelly and Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard also welcomed the judge's decision.