Northern Ireland news

More than 40 boxes of material gathered over 1977 Cushendall murder of RUC officer Joseph Campbell, hearing told

Sergeant Joseph Campbell
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

More than 40 boxes of material relating to the murder of an RUC sergeant in 1977 have been gathered by the Police Ombudsman, a preliminary inquest hearing has been told.

A lawyer told the hearing at Laganside Courthouse that the amount of material around the death of 49-year-old father of eight Joseph Campbell outside Cushendall RUC station was as “voluminous” as any she had ever seen.

The policeman’s family believe rogue elements of the security forces colluded with UVF killer Robin Jackson to kill the respected officer.

During the hearing, counsel for the coroner Ronan Daly KC gave an update on the disclosure of sensitive and non-sensitive material ahead of the full inquest.

He suggested a meeting between disclosure providers including the PSNI and MoD (Ministry of Defence) be held to discuss a “redaction strategy”.

Counsel for the PSNI and MoD John Raffety said he would support the request for a meeting.

Karen Quinlivan KC, counsel for the Campbell family, said: “This is an issue which is the cause of anxiety and concern to the family.

“They are anxious to view the documents and to be able to participate in the process.

“We would like a timetable for the PSNI material at least.”

Mr Daly added: “In relation to the PONI (Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland) materials, that may be the largest body of materials.

“The sensitive materials, which amount of seven boxes have been scheduled, collated and prepared for review. I have started that process.

“The non-sensitive materials, approximately 34 boxes, is being worked on and hopefully will be ready for assessment soon.

“It is one of the largest PONI investigations in terms of material.”

Mr Daly then invited represented parties to give their view on taking a modular approach to the full inquest, with issues dealt with in separate blocks.

Ms Quinlivan said: “There may be some benefit in breaking it down into more manageable components, particularly given the volume of material in this case.

“I appreciate it is a single incident but the materials are as voluminous as anything I have ever seen.”

Coroner Patrick McGurgan said: “There is clearly an enormous amount of material in this case.”

“The sooner we put our minds to disclosure the sooner we get this matter moving and that will help me form a view about a modular approach.”

He asked for a strategy meeting over disclosure to take place before the next preliminary hearing on January 20.

In 2014, an investigation by the Police Ombudsman found RUC Special Branch was aware of a threat against Sgt Campbell but failed to inform him.

The Ombudsman also identified a series of investigative failings by the police.

However, the Ombudsman was unable to substantiate claims that rogue security force members conspired with loyalists to commit the murder.

Northern Ireland news