Northern Ireland news

Suspected sight of Operation Achille report by state agencies described as 'grossly unfair' by Sean Graham bookmaker's victim

Five people were killed during a loyalist gun attack at Sean Graham bookmakers on the Ormeau Road in 1992
Connla Young

A MAN injured in the Sean Graham Bookmaker's massacre has said it is "grossly unfair" that state agencies may have been provided with a Police Ombudsman report into the atrocity months before victims.

The Operation Achille report was expected to be published in autumn but has been stalled after issues were raised by the PSNI.

Relatives of those killed are concerned that several agencies may already have had sight of the report, including MI5, British military intelligence and the NIO.

The investigation examined the murders of 12 people and one attempted murder.

The victims include five people killed by the UDA at Sean Graham Bookmaker's on Belfast's Ormeau Road in February 1992.

Collusion is strongly suspected.

PSNI fact-checking of the draft ombudsman report was to be completed by August.

However, it emerged that the PSNI had 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.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne last month suggested that "various parties" could have an interest in asserting PII certificates when challenged by relatives.

Attack survivor Mark Sykes, whose brother-in-law Peter Magee was murdered, last night said victims and relatives "have waited patiently for the truth and accountability".

Mr Sykes voiced concerns that some of the state agencies may have already examined the report.

“We were recently informed that the PSNI now have ‘national security’ concerns and that public interest immunity, gagging orders to conceal truth, is required," he said.

“When the families asked about this the chief constable referred to other agencies. We want to know which agencies and why."

Mr Sykes said it is "unfair" that relatives of the dead will only have hours to consider the report's contents before it is made public.

"In effect we will only be given a matter of hours to see the report before it’s made public whilst the PSNI, MoD (Ministry of Defence), MI5 and the NIO will have had the report for months beforehand," he said.

“This is unacceptable and grossly unfair. This is adding to the stress, anxiety and trauma of the families and survivors."

Mr Sykes said families want to know who has been provided with a copy of the report.

“We need to know now all those agencies that have received the report from the ombudsman," he said.

Mark Thompson from Relatives for Justice said that "as a matter of common courtesy the Police Ombudsman needs to lift the phone and let the families know who has a copy of the report".

Asked if the PSNI had provided the draft report to MI5 or the NIO a spokeswoman said the it was provided to police by the ombudsman for "the purpose of fact-checking only".

"The sharing of the report with other organisations is a matter for PONI and not police," she added.

A spokesman for the NIO referred The Irish News to the Police Ombudsman when asked if officials have received a copy.

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman said: "It is standard practice for the Police Ombudsman to share sections of draft public statements with relevant agencies, ahead of publication, for the purposes of ensuring factual accuracy.

"Details of this engagement will be provided in the public statement."

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