Northern Ireland news

Retired RUC members launch Operation Achille report legal challenge

From left, Sean Graham survivor Mark Sykes; Billy McManus, whose father William (54) was killed in the 1992 attack; solicitor Niall Murphy and Bosco Kennedy, whose brother James (15) was also among the victims. Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

A GROUP of retired former RUC officers have launched a legal challenge to a Police Ombudsman report that found evidence of collusive behaviours by police.

The Operation Achille report examined 11 murders and one attempted murder between 1990 and 1998.

A twelfth murder, although investigated, was not included due to ongoing legal action.

The loyalist attacks, which included the killing of five people at Sean Graham bookmaker's on Belfast's Ormeau Road in 1992, have been attributed to the UDA/UFF.

Key findings of Marie Anderson's report included a failure to warn two men of threats to their lives, the deliberate destruction of files relating to the Sean Graham attack, and failures by Special Branch to pass on information to investigators.

The report in February also identified eight UDA/UFF members linked through intelligence to the murders or attempted murders of 27 people and confirmed they were all police informers "either at the time, or subsequent to, these attacks".

It has now emerged that three former RUC members, including Raymond Fitzsimons, chairman of the Retired Police Officers Association, have launched legal action. The two others are known only as Applicant A and Applicant B.

A spokesman last night said that the Police Ombudsman will "robustly defend" the challenge.

The move comes after a similar challenge was recently launched in respect of Operation Greenwich, which was also published this year. It examined 19 murders and two attempted murders carried out by the UDA/UFF between 1989 and 1993 and also found there was evidence of "collusive behaviour" by some officers.

Members of the RPOA previously launched legal action in relation to the Police Ombudsman's 2016 report into the murder of six Catholic men at a bar in Louginisland, Co Down in 1994.

A protracted legal process subsequently held up the publication of other ombudsman reports before the challenge was rejected.

Solicitor Niall Murphy, of KRW Law, said he believes "this action is ill-conceived and destined to fail".

"The issues raised have already been rejected by successive court judgments," he said.

"This is effectively a re-run of the failed challenge to the Loughinisland report published in 2016."

The RPOA was contacted.

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