The ability of the UVF to obtain secret security documents which should only have been seen by a handful of NIO officials, Army, RUC and prison chiefs led to an internal NIO inquiry in 1981.
The terrorist group obtained the documents, some marked ‘secret’ and some marked ‘confidential’, about security at the Maze Prison and published details in its magazine, Combat.
The documents, linked to the Prisons Inter-Service Intelligence Committee, had only been copied 10 times for senior officials or security figures, with one copy going to the press office.
But, although the documents had always been delivered by hand rather than by post, the UVF journal obtained details of a 1976 meeting of the committee with the first of several articles alleging that meetings between prisoners and their solicitors were being bugged.
An investigation by RJ Heslip and JS Griffin involved interviews with each of those authorised to have the documents.
Although it found no evidence of a deliberate breach of security by any of those interviewed, it did find that the “haphazard” way in which secret files were handled meant it was impossible to identify the source of the leak.
The report concluded: “It is obvious...that the UVF are not only in possession of the set of minutes photocopied in ‘Combat’ but that they also had in their possession copies of minutes of other meetings.”