Bail scandal: despite police apology these questions remain

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton pictured giving evidence to Commons Northern Ireland Committee on the future of the land border, at Portcullis House in London. Photo: PA/PA Wire
PSNI chief constable George Hamilton pictured giving evidence to Commons Northern Ireland Committee on the future of the land border, at Portcullis House in London. Photo: PA/PA Wire

Since last Friday, the News Letter has posed a series of questions to different agencies about how exactly the fiasco surrounding Damien McLaughlin’s disappearance unfolded.

The PSNI had received about a dozen-or-so by Monday afternoon, and eventually provided a statement that night – but it left most of the key questions unanswered.

See here for some details of McLaughlin and his disappearance.

The only query it really seemed to shed any light upon was whether or not Gardai have been contacted over the disappearance (they have).

The News Letter had also asked police if they wanted to apologise to the family of David Black.

Their initial statement on Monday mentioned nothing about an apology, but at 6.30pm last night they said that detectives had visited the Black family in person to say sorry.

Other questions to which answers are outstanding are:

• Can you explain why Damien Joseph McLaughlin has not been seen by police in seven weeks? (unanswered)

• How did this happen? (unanswered)

• What are police doing about the situation? (Police have said “our priority is to locate Damien McLaughlin” and that “active enquiries” are under way, but added that they are “limited in what we can comment on publicly due to the ongoing legal proceedings”).

• Have there been media appeals about this man? (unanswered, but it appears not to be the case, despite the fact police routinely send out appeals to newsrooms to trace missing people).

• Does the Chief Constable himself have anything to say on the matter? (so far, statements have been in the name of Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray, not Chief Constable George Hamilton).

• Has any officer been disciplined or resigned as a result of this? (unanswered)

• If he is found in the Republic of Ireland, will he be returned to Northern Ireland immediately, and if so under what agreement or powers? (unanswered; while the PSNI has said he would “follow all normal procedures in place to have him returned”, it has not said if this would be immediate, or what arrangements exist for such transfers)

• Damien McLaughlin had to surrender his passport as part of his bail conditions. But can you tell me which kind of passport, Irish or UK, he surrendered, and whether he has a second one which has not been surrendered? (unanswered).

• Was December 23 the first time that police had searched his bail address in west Belfast? (unanswered)

• Have police applied for a European Arrest Warrant for McLaughlin? (unanswered)