Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Castlereagh break-in: Retired Special Branch officer to appeal over £22,400 payout

Millions of pounds were spent rehousing officers following the 2002 raid
Millions of pounds were spent rehousing officers following the 2002 raid

A retired Special Branch officer who was awarded £22,400 in damages against the PSNI at the High Court has spoken about the case for the first time to reveal he intends to appeal.

The veteran officer, who has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, was given six weeks to decide if he wanted to appeal the case.

He sought legal opinion and has now decided to lodge an appeal against the court's judgment on quantum damages, despite being awarded £22,400 against the Chief Constable.

It is thought the action may trigger a fresh spate of cases, as former officers become more prepared to talk about what they endured as time goes by.

They see what they consider to be history being rewritten, with them being painted in a negative light with no way of defending themselves.

Details of the former officer who brought the action were stolen during a break-in at the Special Branch office inside Castlereagh police station. He can only be identified as CR19.

He has said he feels the police authorities "let him and many other officers down, which was a big factor in the health problems I developed".

This was the first case of negligence taken against the Chief Constable for breach of data protection and statutory duty.

The action was taken as a result of intruders breaking into a Special Branch office at the police base on St Patrick's Day 2002. They escaped with sensitive files which related to officers and their agents inside paramilitary organisations on both sides.

Millions of pounds were spent rehousing officers and others whose security was compromised by the stolen information. Other cases have been settled, but CR19 could not agree damages and wanted to have the PSNI openly admit negligence in his case.

Responsibility for the burglary, which destabilised the peace process, was denied by the IRA, but CR19 told the court the IRA was to blame. He claimed the IRA carried out the break-in as part of a plan to kill Special Branch officers – "their main enemy".

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph to confirm his intention to appeal, he said: "It's not over yet, I haven't gone away you know."

Medical experts accepted that, along with other work-related experiences, the Castlereagh incident had a significant detrimental impact on his health after hearing of his drinking more than a bottle of whiskey a day as he tried to deal with the stress.

The judge backed a medical expert who assessed the former officer's psychiatric issues as having worsened by up to 25% in the six years after the burglary in 2002.

BACKGROUND

The retired Special Branch officer took a case against the PSNI after his details were stolen during the break-in at Castlereagh police station. The former officer sued over claims of the medical and financial consequences for him of the 2002 raid and was awarded £22,400.

He told the High Court the security breach compounded post-traumatic stress brought on by decades of service. The officer has now decided to appeal the damages awarded.

Further reading

We had no part in police break-in, says IRA

Castlereagh raid: an inside job

Stevens probe team in security review after Castlereagh raid

Police raid gang 'had military-style passes'

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