PSNI loyalist murder report delay branded 'unacceptable'
QUERIES raised by the PSNI which are expected to delay the publication of a report into a series of loyalist murders have been criticised by politicians.
Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson had been expected to publish a report arising from Operation Achille this autumn.
It signals the end of an investigation into the murder of 12 people and one attempted murder.
The dead include five people killed by the UDA at Sean Graham Bookmakers on Belfast's Ormeau Road in February 1992.
Collusion is strongly suspected in some cases.
Relatives of some of those who have died have accused the PSNI of trying to "thwart" the report.
A PSNI fact-checking process was due to be completed in August, however, it has now emerged that the force has now referred "to a potential issue of a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate and Closed Material Proceedings (CMP)" in correspondence with the Police Ombudsman's office.
PII certificates are often sought when the state believes information may not be in the public interest to disclose.
This can include the role of state agents and informers.
CMPs include presenting sensitive information to a court without all parties being present.
Ms Anderson's office has said it is seeking clarity from the PSNI and has "engaged expert legal opinion to assist her in examining whether the PSNI's position in these matters has been properly made".
SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly was critical of the continued delay.
"I have every sympathy with the families, who are quiet rightly angry and upset at these latest turn of events," she said.
Ms Kelly said she was "pleased that the Police Ombudsman is laying the blame squarely at where it belongs and demanding answers from the PSNI".
"I think this underscores why the PSNI can't deal with legacy cases and why we need an independent adjudicator on these matters," she said.
Sinn Féin Policing Board member Linda Dillon said deputy first minister Michell O'Neill held a meeting with the Police Ombudsman several months ago " to impress upon her the need to expedite legacy case reports".
"If PSNI are causing delays at this late stage that is unacceptable and we will be asking questions at the Policing Board because this is extremely distressing for families and does little to improve confidence in policing," she said.
"There can be no further delays for families who have already waited far too long to get the reports that will tell them about the circumstances of the death of their loved ones."
A spokeswoman for the PSNI said it "is working closely" with the Police Ombudsman "relating to this report".