Retired officers’ court challenge to Loughinisland report findings

Six men were killen when the Heights bar in Loughinisland was attacked by the UVF in 1994
Six men were killen when the Heights bar in Loughinisland was attacked by the UVF in 1994

Three years after a decision to boycott investigations by the Police Ombudsman, a body representing former RUC officers has launched a legal challenge to his Loughinisland report findings.

In June, Dr Michael Maguire said he found “collusion was a significant feature” in the UVF murder of six men at a bar in the Co Down village in 1994.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire. 
Picture: Colm O'Reilly/Presseye

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire. Picture: Colm O'Reilly/Presseye

Although the ombudsman said there was no evidence the security forces had forewarning of the attack, he said that after the murders, Special Branch did not appear to use sources in an effort to catch the killers.

“This was a ‘hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil’ approach to the use of some informants, which potentially frustrated the police investigation,” he said.

In 2013, the NI Retired Police Officers Association (NIRPOA) told Justice Minister David Ford it can no longer encourage its members to cooperate with Dr Maguire and his team probing historical cases of alleged breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The fallout became public when NIRPOA chairman Raymond White – a retired top Special Branch officer – rejected a PONI finding that the RUC failed to alert the public to an IRA bomb that killed three Londonderry neighbours in 1988.

At the time, Mr White said: “In the view of the association, the lack of investigative rigour in the eight-year long (ombudsman) inquiry resulted in facts, which were not relevant to the process, becoming an integral part of the alleged evidential package considered by the ombudsman.”

Last night, a NIRPOA spokesman confirmed a legal challenge to the Loughinisland report is underway, but said no further information on the grounds for complaint would be released at this stage.

He said: “The process for a judicial review against the ombudsman has begun and it is now a matter for the courts.”

As well as Mr White, the other person named as a judicial review applicant is retired chief superintendent Thomas Hawthorne.

According to the NI Court Service, the judicial review application was lodged on August 5, and is listed for a court hearing on November 10.

When the Loughinisland report was published, Chief Constable George Hamilton said it made “uncomfortable reading” but he accepted its findings.