Police ‘must hit deadline or forfeit IRA ambush case’

Aerial view of the bullet riddled Hiace van (blue at bottom)after eight IRA men were shot dead by the SAS outside Loughgall RUC station in 1988
Aerial view of the bullet riddled Hiace van (blue at bottom)after eight IRA men were shot dead by the SAS outside Loughgall RUC station in 1988

Police have been set a final deadline for disclosure of sensitive documents in a major legal action over the SAS killings of eight IRA men.

The force’s defence to the lawsuit, focused on events surrounding the Loughgall ambush, will be struck out unless the High Court order is complied with by late November, a lawyer said.

The development was described as a “huge step forward” in proceedings brought by the father of one of the men shot dead in the Co Armagh village in May 1987.

Undercover soldiers targeted members of the IRA’s East Tyrone unit as they approached an RUC station with a bomb in a hijacked digger.

A civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also shot dead when he was caught up in the gunfire.

Relatives of those killed claim soldiers operated a deliberate shoot-to-kill policy rather than attempt arrests.

The IRA men killed included Declan Arthurs. His father Patrick initially sued just the MoD over the ambush, but with the RUC also believed to have played a role, the PSNI was joined to the action as the force’s successor.

Previously the High Court heard police faced trawling through electronic, microfiche and hard copy material in stores holding more than 9.5 million records.

The court was told potentially thousands of redactions needed to be made under Public Interest Immunity (PII) considerations.

Solicitor Claire McKeegan of KRW Law said Mr Justice Maguire has now made an ‘unless order’ giving the PSNI 10 weeks to complete the PII process and hand over remaining documents.

If not, she said following Friday’s hearing, “they will be unable to defend this action... we see this as a huge step forward”.