Northern Ireland news

'Questions remain' after PSNI fail to disclose loyalist shootings info to Police Ombudsman

Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire has called for a review into how police disclose information. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Rebecca Black, Press Association

Further questions remain after it emerged the PSNI failed to disclose "significant information" relating to a notorious loyalist mass shooting, politicians have said.

Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire found that "significant, sensitive information" around a mass shooting at a bookmakers in south Belfast was not made available to his investigators.

Five people were killed on February 5 1992 when members of the loyalist UFF opened fire on the Sean Graham bookmakers shop on the lower Ormeau Road.

The ombudsman's office said the material in question has opened new lines of inquiry in its investigation into the Ormeau Road shootings, as well as activities of loyalist paramilitaries in the north west between 1988 and 1994; and its investigation into the murder of teenager Damien Walsh at a coal depot in west Belfast in 1993.

Reports outlining the findings of these investigations, which had been due to be published in the coming weeks, will now be delayed.

Dr Maguire has contacted the Department of Justice to ask that the PSNI faces a review of how it discloses information.

Tommy Duffin, whose father Jack was killed in the Ormeau Road shooting, told the BBC that it was an "absolute disgrace".

Tommy Duffin. Picture by Hugh Russell

Mark Sykes, who was injured in the loyalist attack, said he felt "sick, angry and lied to".

"To be told yesterday that there were documents withheld from him was sickening," he said.

PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin has apologised on behalf of the police, and said they never sought to withhold the information from the ombudsman investigators, putting the incident down to human error.

He has also offered to give ombudsman investigators "full and unfettered access" to police legacy systems.

Cases affected include the killing of five men at Sean Graham's bookmakers on Belfast's Ormeau Road in 1992

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey welcomed the apology from police, but said a "thorough review is needed to ensure that there is no impediment to justice".

"We need to recognise that the police worked to gather information during a terrorist campaign," he said.

"Evidence-gathering took place in an often dangerous and difficult environment.

"That terrorist campaign resulted in brutality and the loss of many innocent lives.

"Today there are families who are still looking for answers and justice. Therefore it is important that any new information is fully investigated.

"I will be raising this matter during our discussions at a Policing Board level.

"We welcome the police apology. Further questions remain. A thorough review is needed to ensure that there is no impediment to justice."

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly said he is seeking an urgent meeting with Chief Constable George Hamilton over the matter.

"We will also be meeting the Police Ombudsman to discuss this latest failure to disclose information to his investigations and will be raising this at the Policing Board," he said.

"The continued denial of truth and justice to victims of the conflict reaffirms the need for an end to the delays in implementing the legacy structures agreed by the two governments and the political parties at Stormont House in 2014.

"The PSNI or the British government saying sorry is not enough. Confidence in policing is diving to its lowest level in many years. Immediate action is needed."

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