Court hears call for ‘unlocking’ of sensitive documents in case of IPLO man shot by IRA

Sensitive documents held by a police watchdog should be “unlocked” for full judicial scrutiny of alleged security force collusion in an IRA murder, the High Court heard on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 8:14 pm
Police Ombudsman office in Belfast
Police Ombudsman office in Belfast

Lawyers for the mother of Eoin Morley are appealing a decision to deny them access to confidential material in the possession of the Police Ombudsman.

Eilish Morley wants disclosure as part of her lawsuit against the Ministry of Defence and the PSNI over the killing of her 23-year-old son in Newry, Co Down nearly 30 years ago.

She is also suing Peter Keeley, widely reported as a former British army agent inside the IRA using the pseudonym Kevin Fulton, due to his alleged role.

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Mr Morley was taken from his girlfriend’s house in the Derrybeg estate by masked men and shot twice on Easter Sunday 1990.

He had been a member of the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO), a splinter republican paramilitary organisation.

An investigation by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan concluded that the Royal Ulster Constabulary failed to properly probe the killing.

However, she also found there had been no effort by police to instigate a feud between the IRA and IPLO.

Mrs Morley is seeking damages against the MoD for either allegedly permitting the murder to take place or failing to take steps to prevent it.

She also claims the RUC failed to carry out a proper investigation into the shooting, and that Special Branch officers withheld intelligence.

Her legal team went before a High Court judge to appeal an initial refusal of their attempt to secure third-party discovery of documents held by the Ombudsman’s office.

Part of the challenge was held behind closed doors due to the matters of national security.

In the public session Danny Friedman QC told Mr Justice Horner that a handover is necessary.

“The choices are quite stark,” counsel said.

“Should the information remain locked in a vault of complete non-disclosure so it can never be subject to any judicial investigation, so one can never administer justice in relation to it.

“Or should it remain exclusively a matter for the Police Ombudbsman, exercising its statutory functions in good faith, to say what it can do in relation to the material.

“A third choice is should the material somehow be channelled into the legal landscape... to ensure the fair and effective administration of justice.”

Up to 10,000 pages of documents related to the case are thought to exist, the court heard.

Although not all that material is being sought, a barrister for the Ombudsman insisted disclosure was correctly denied.

Fiona Doherty QC acknowledged the seriousness of Mrs Morley’s allegations, but reiterated her client is not involved in the main action.

“We cannot and should not be asked to carry out an exercise which is akin to that of discovery by a party to the litigation,” she added.

With judgment in the appeal expected to be reserved, the lawsuit is due to be heard in full next year.

Outside court Mrs Morley’s solicitor, Kevin Winters of KRW Law, said: “This type of application is exceptional and unusual, given the background to the case.

“We say these documents are highly relevant to my client’s action and will help prove the case against all three defendants in relation to alleged collusion in the killing of her son.”