In October this newspaper reported on the scandal of the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland (PONI) investigating a former detective for 20 years before he was told that he was not being prosecuted.
The ex special branch officer, now in his 60s, has spent almost a third of his life under a cloud of the allegation that he and other agent handlers could have prevented murders — based on the word of a disgruntled UVF murderer.
This shameful delay in clearing the officer has had barely any publicity outside of this newspaper.
We also were almost alone in repeatedly asking questions about the appalling legal saga around the PONI reports into the police handling of the 1994 Loughinisland massacres. An initial investigation which did not find collusion with the loyalist killers was substituted by a new report from a new ombudsman which did.
When a judge issued a scathing assessment of the latter findings, he was accused of bias, stood aside, and the current lord chief justice then issued a very different ruling that declined to give the same weight to the injustice faced by ex RUC officers being subject to the grievous slur of ‘collusion,’ a term that is widely defined but could imply being murderous, without due process or without even being charged with such in a criminal court, let alone found guilty.
After a long delay, the Northern Ireland Appeal court issued an inadequate judgement on the disputed matter. But it was not then brought to the Supreme Court. Why? Perhaps because while a vast amount of legacy litigation in NI against the UK state is funded by legal aid, retired police officers have to fund themselves. They get little moral support from the PSNI.
It is all the more regrettable that the matter was not settled in the UK’s highest court, given that its recent ruling on the hooded men seemed to push back on legacy ‘lawfare’. Meanwhile, retired police can now have their reputations destroyed by findings of ‘collusive behaviours’.
Once again we ask a question we posed in October: why are so few politicians asking the hard questions about the ombudsman’s office’s handling of historic investigations?
This web version to this editorial links below to the outstanding retired special branch officer Ray White’s recent essay on this ongoing scandal.
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