Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

Chief Constable sued over data stolen from a police computer

A victims campaigner has launched legal proceedings against the Chief Constable and two loyalist bandsmen over the gathering of information on Catholics from a police database.

Lawyers for Mark Thompson, director of the Relatives for Justice group, confirmed writs have been served in his High Court claim for damages.

Mr Thompson is suing the Police Service and Co Antrim men Aaron Hill (24) and Darren Richardson (31) who were both convicted of collecting information likely to be useful to terrorists.

Hill, a former PSNI civilian member of staff from Mainebank, Randalstown, admitted carrying out checks on the police computer system for more than two years before being detected.

It was estimated that around 100 names were searched, with nearly 70 people warned to step up their personal security because their details had been accessed.

With Hill also found guilty of misconduct in public office, his original suspended sentence was increased to nine months in prison on appeal in June.

Richardson, from Moneynick Road, Randalstown, was convicted of a further offence of possessing 40 rounds of live ammunition and received a one-year prison term. The former manager at a coach-building firm had gathered car registrations of Catholics living in the Randalstown and Toome areas before passing them on to Hill to run through the police database.

Hill and Richardson's friendship developed during their time as members of a loyalist flute band in their home town.

Along with the Chief Constable, they are now facing a claim for loss and damage to Mr Thompson's right to privacy and family life.

The victims campaigner, who says officers warned him his details were in the hands of loyalists following the security breach, is contending that police owed a duty of care to ensure members of staff did not disclose his personal information to criminals.

“Aaron Hill was working within the PSNI as a civilian worker and he had access to police computers and intelligence. He passed on the details of quite a number of people, including me,” Mr Thompson said.

“We want to know how Aaron Hill, as a member of a loyalist flute band, was given access to information as a civilian police employee and passed it on for years.

“What this comes down to is suing for damages, but we are not interested in damages. We want the truth about what happened to emerge.

“Ultimately, we want the Police Ombudsman to conduct a thorough inquiry into what happened.”

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