Prosecutors are to review a decision not to bring charges against former police officers implicated in a loyalist paramilitary killing.
The development was confirmed during a High Court challenge mounted by the murder victim’s father, Belfast man Raymond McCord.
His 22-year-old son, Raymond McCord Jnr, was beaten to death before his body was dumped in a quarry on the northern outskirts of the city in November 1997.
The killing was at the centre of an explosive report by former Police Ombusdman Nuala O’Loan which found collusion between a north Belfast UVF gang and their Special Branch handlers.
Earlier this year Gary Haggarty, a former commander of the terror unit-turned supergrass, was jailed after confessing to hundreds of paramilitary offences.
His catalogue of crime extended over 16 years, from 1991 to 2007, and included five murders - but not that of Mr McCord Jnr.
The 45-year-old pleaded guilty as part of a controversial state deal that offered a reduced sentence in return for providing evidence on other terror suspects.
As a consequence his prison term was slashed from 35 years to six-and-a-half years due to the assistance provided to police.
Under the terms of the agreement he supplied information on scores of loyalist killings and attempted murders.
Despite Haggarty implicating 16 people in serious crime, only one man currently faces prosecution for murder using his evidence.
Former Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory announced last year that his claims alone were insufficient to prove allegations made against the other suspects.
Mr McCord then issued judicial review proceedings against the Public Prosecution Service for failing to review the decision not to bring charges against former police officers implicated in the alleged failure to prevent his son’s murder.
His lawyers claimed the position was unlawful, unfair and “deprecated” the weight which could be given to Haggarty’s evidence and his general credibility.
In court today, however, counsel for the PPS confirmed that a review of the decision not to prosecute the former police officers will now be carried out.
Following the hearing Mr McCord’s solicitor, Ciaran O’Hare of McIvor Farrell law firm, said his client had left been dismayed by the original stance.
“He was devastated that after many years, not one of those implicated in the murder of his son, one of the many dark and particularly heinous crimes in our troubled history, would face the rigour of a prosecution,” Mr O’Hare said.
“The decision not to prosecute the former police officers implicated in the murder of his son was based on the evidence submitted from the Police Ombudsman’s Office and thereafter the Director of Public Prosecutions concluded that none of the cases concerning the police officers referred for prosecution on the basis of the evidence submitted had a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Mr O’Hare added that an inquest into the murder of Raymond McCord Jnr has been on hold for years pending the outcome of the investigations into Haggarty.
“Now after all these years, my client is of the view that the systems designed to prosecute those responsible for his son’s murder have failed.”