Police Ombudsman PSNI Operation Achille issues has potential to have 'significant impact' on report
POLICE Ombudsman Marie Anderson has said issues raised by the PSNI in relation to an investigation into a series of loyalist murders has the potentially to have a "significant impact" on her final report.
Ms Anderson made the admission in a letter to legal representatives.
The ombudsman had been expected to publish a report arising from Operation Achille this autumn.
The major investigation examined the murders of 12 people and one attempted murder.
The victims 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.
A draft copy of the final report had been with the Police Ombudsman's Office and fact checking was to be completed by August.
However, this week The Irish News revealed 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 sought when the state believes it may not be in the public interest to disclose information. This can include the role of state agents and informers.
CMPs include presenting sensitive information to a court without all parties being present.
In a recent letter to lawyers Ms Anderson said: "The issues to which reference is made in the PII certificate and CMP, which PSNI has brought to my attention, have the potential to have significant impact on my public statement."
She also said she has "engaged expert legal counsel to assist in examining whether the PSNIs position in these matters has been properly made out".
Ms Anderson confirmed she has also written to the PSNI "to request a detailed submission on the assertion of the public interest in relation to these matters".
SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said it was "deeply troubling that the chief constable should at this late stage with the investigation...now raise such significant issues".
"Families deserve the fullest account of what happened and also that justice, and the pursuit of justice, should be demanded for them," she added.
Solicitor Michael Brentnall, of Brentnall Legal, represents the attempted murder victim covered by the investigation.
"Our client has once again been notified of the fact that the investigation by the Police Ombudsman in regards to the attempted murder of him has been stalled by the actions of the PSNI.
"Claims of collusion were made at the time of the attack and our client has had to wait three decades to come close to finding out the truth only to be told that the PSNI are attempting to exclude certain aspects of the report on the basis of PII and CMP."