Northern Ireland news

PSNI to compensate Sinn Féin national chairman Declan Kearney after his details were leaked to loyalists

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney (left) is to be compensated after his personal details were leaked to loyalists while Relatives for Justice director Mark Thompson has also brought a case against police, which has yet to be settled
Connla Young

Sinn Féin national chairman Declan Kearney is to be compensated by the PSNI after his personal details were leaked to loyalists.

The Irish News has learned that almost £50,000 has been paid out to the first eights victims who took cases, with one person receiving £10,000.

Two loyalists, including a civilian PSNI worker, were convicted for their part in collecting information about Catholics, which involved the removal of personal details from a PSNI computer

In 2009 a court was told that the 67 people were warned by police to step up their personal security because their details had been accessed.

The PSNI has now confirmed that that all eight cases were settled “out of court on a compromise settlement based on counsel’s advice”.

The force also said that an additional four cases “remain categorised as ‘to be concluded’”.

Figures obtained by the Irish News reveal that £49,500 has been paid out, with one of person receiving £10,000.

Separate payments of £8,500 and £7,500 have also been made to people whose details were leaked.

Three payments of £6,000 were also made while one person pocketed £3,000.

In one case a £2,500 payment was also made.

Two men, Aaron Hill and Darren Richardson, who were both from the Randalstown area, were later convicted for their part in the plot.

A court heard that Richardson had gathered car registrations from Catholics living in the Randalstown and Toome areas and then passed them on to Hill who ran them through the PSNI database.

Hill admitted carrying out checks for more than two years before the offences were detected. It was later estimated he had searched around 100 names.

Richardson had been working for Wrightbus in Ballymena in April 2007 when his office was searched and colleagues uncovered a number of documents containing car registrations, names and addresses.

A court heard that 40 bullets were also found and that when his BMW car was searched further documents with names and addresses were uncovered.

The two men, who were members of a loyalist flute band, pleaded guilty to collecting information likely to be useful to terrorists.

Hill also admitted misconduct in public office and was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years.

An appeal court later ordered him to serve nine months behind bars.

Richardson received a one year term but had already served the equivalent time on remand.

A Sinn Féin spokeswoman confirmed that south Antrim MLA Declan Kearney has taken legal action.

She said this took place after information was collected during a public meeting on policing at the Elk Bar, in south Derry, in 2006.

Relatives for Justice director Mark Thompson has also brought a case, which has yet to be settled.

Mr Thompson said he wants full disclosure and discovery adding “there has never been any transparent or independent investigation of this breach”.

“To date the PSNI have yet to settle a civil case in respect to this matter in which I seek disclosures concerning exactly how my and other files were able to be handed out to loyalist paramilitaries from the PSNI centralised computer system,” he said.

He said that the Police Ombudsman is unable to investigate the case because a civilian worker was involved.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, who represents over a dozen of those taking legal action said the episode “harks back to an ugly era when society generally and nationalists in particular thought allegations of this nature were long consigned to history.

 

“Sadly the payout of thousands of pounds of compensation to many people demonstrates that we have a bit to go yet before basic levels of confidence can be in place," he said.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "This matter was thoroughly investigated by PSNI and two individuals were subsequently convicted."

He said the PSNI "takes the security of personal data seriously" and that "access to police systems is strictly controlled".

He added that "every transaction made with this system is logged against the individual user" and "where unauthorised breaches are identified appropriate criminal and disciplinary investigations and sanctions will be implemented immediately".

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