Police Ombudsman reports to face new legal challenge: date set for hearing

Former police officers say they have been left with no option but to commence further legal action against the Police Ombudsman NI (PONI) as previous High Court rulings have been “treated with contempt”.

By Mark Rainey
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 9:41 pm

In an unprecedented development, three separate Judicial Review applications by both the Police Federation NI (PFNI) and the NI Retired Police Officers’ Association (NIRPOA) will be heard together, with a “fighting fund” being established by the NIRPOA to help bring their strand of the court action to a final conclusion.

The legal challenges relate to the recent PONI reports on the 1992 Ormeau Road murders, on UDA murders in the north west of the Province, and the two former RUC detectives involved in the ‘Derry Four’ case – that led to the prosecution of two ex-RUC detectives which collapsed over withheld evidence from PONI. That led to two PONI investigators being reported to the PPS, however, no criminal charges were brought.

When the NIRPOA challenged the lawfulness of the PONI report on the 1994 Loughinisland murders, Justice McCloskey ruled that the PONI finding of ‘collusion’ between police officers and loyalist terrorists was “unsustainable in law”.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Police Ombudsman NI Marie Anderson. Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

A number of subsequent PONI reports have referred to “collusive behaviours”.

The three judicial review applications have been listed for a preliminary hearing next Tuesday (June 28).

NIRPOA chairman Raymond Fitzsimmons said: “We have taken this step with great reluctance, being aware of the sensitivities around the deaths of many innocent people. However, after previous expensive litigation it is clear to us that the directions which were issued by the High Court and the Appeal Court have been treated with contempt by PONI, who has continued to make unlawful findings of guilt in relation to the most serious offences imaginable without any form of due process.

“We believe that an office which has been created to uphold the law should itself abide by the law; and we believe that the legal rights which are afforded to all other citizens should be extended to retired police officers.

“There is no mechanism open to us to seek redress of grievance other than through JR, so once again we must ask our members to contribute to a fighting fund to defend honour, decency and justice.”

A PONI spokesman said the police ombudsman “has been informed that the High Court has set a date for an initial review of the legal challenge to her Operation Greenwich public statement” and would be “robustly defending” the legal challenge.

He said: “The statement relates to the Police Ombudsman’s investigation of public complaints about the RUC’s handling of paramilitary attacks by the UDA/UFF between 1989 and 1993, including 19 murders and multiple attempted murders. It was published on 14 January this year.”