Sugden calls for action against ‘collusive’ agents

Justice Minister Claire Sugden
Justice Minister Claire Sugden

The new justice minister at Stormont has said that anyone guilty of “collusive activity” around the 1994 Louginisland murders should be held accountable.

Claire Sugden said the recent Police Ombudsman’s report into the UVF gun attack that claimed the lives of six men at the Heights Bar “raise difficult and disturbing issues about the conduct of some police officers, in relation to both investigative failings and collusion”.

She said: “The Chief Constable has rightly described this as totally unacceptable and has apologised on behalf of the PSNI.”

Following publication of the report earlier this month, Chief Constable George Hamilton has said the report’s findings made “uncomfortable reading particularly in relation to the alleged actions of police officers at the time”.

He said he accepted the report’s findings, but in a subsequent interview with the BBC Spotlight programme, Mr Hamilton expressed surprise at the “strength of the language” used in the report.

“There does seem to be some sort of distance between the strength of the language in the report, in the fact that we’re not having police officers even reported to the PPS.

“If I got to a point where I was convinced in a very clear way that collusion was a key element of the Loughinisland murders then I’d be looking to take that conclusion into evidence through arrests, interviews, charges,” he said.

Commenting on an earlier report by previous Ombudsman Al Hutchinson, Mr Hamilton said: “In 2011, we accepted the findings of the previous PONI report into the murders and conducted a further review of the case as a result.

“We apologised to the families at that time and I offer my sincere apologies to them once again today, for both the investigative failings and that collusion was a significant feature of the Loughinisland murders.”

Ms Sugden said her thoughts are with the families “who have had to endure such terrible heartache for so long,” and added: “Those responsible for the attack, and anyone involved in collusive activity, should be held accountable. I welcome the Chief Constable’s commitment to co-operate fully with any further action the Ombudsman decides to take in relation to the report.”