Northern Ireland news

High Court hears police intelligence about dissident murder threat to Jim Donegan was not passed on before he was shot dead

Jim Donegan was shot dead in west Belfast in December 2018

POLICE intelligence about a dissident republican murder threat was not passed on to a west Belfast man before he was shot dead outside his son's school, the High Court heard yesterday.

Counsel for the family of Jim Donegan claimed the specific information referenced the target's vehicle and identified the location of the attack.

Fiona Doherty QC said they believe Mr Donegan would still be alive if details allegedly linked to him had been relayed prior to the killing in December 2018.

Mr Donegan (43) was shot dead in his Porsche car as he waited to collect one of his children outside St Mary's Christian Brothers School on west Belfast's Glen Road.

The Police Ombudsman is currently investigating how a potential dissident republican threat was not passed on by the PSNI before the murder.

An older son of the victim, Cris Donegan, is applying to judicially review the police over the legal route taken to notify the watchdog.

His lawyers claim there was a statutory obligation on the chief constable to make a referral if it appears that an officer's conduct may have resulted in someone's death, or could merit disciplinary proceedings.

Ms Doherty stressed it was necessary to prevent any allegations of a cover-up and to ensure confidence in the PSNI's complaint system.

In an affidavit read out in court, Cris Donegan said the family were only aware of general threats to his father's life.

Following the funeral a relative met a senior investigating officer who allegedly explained that the PSNI were aware of the threat to his father which was not passed on to him.

It specified that he would be killed outside a school on a Tuesday or Thursday, while in his Range Rover, it was claimed.

Mr Donegan was murdered on a Tuesday, the court heard.

Although no longer driving a Range Rover, he had kept the same registration for his new vehicle.

According to the affidavit, the senior investigator said any failure to relay the threat was nothing to do with them.

In pre-action correspondence the PSNI said Mr Donegan was provided with a threat message in June, 2018.

"This suggested dissident republicans targeted him because of their belief that he was connected to the drugs trade," the letter stated.

"At that time the PSNI were also in possession of information that suggested dissident republicans intended to target a male believed to be involved in the sale of illegal drugs, who drove a Range Rover and regularly collected a child from school on the Glen Road.

"This information did not name James Donegan."

Prompt and specific research was carried out in a bid to establish the identity of the man referred to in the information, according to police.

An Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) request was made to identify any cars regularly on the Glen Road for an intelligence document.

Within hours a list of potential vehicles was said to have been compiled, including one with a registration linked to the victim.

However, the court heard that the ANPR document may not have been correctly processed and sent to the intelligence hub or the officer who made the initial request.

According to counsel, police have accepted something went wrong.

The issue was brought to the Chief Constable's Office, with an internal review resulting in a senior officer writing to the Police Ombudsman three days after the shooting.

It was decided the watchdog should be notified, despite a view there was no legal requirement for a statutory referral.

But Ms Doherty maintained: "There was specific intelligence that could be linked to Mr Donegan. That intelligence was borne out by the murder of Mr Donegan."

The case continues.

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