Alleged security force collusion in up to 30 loyalist murders should be examined in a thematic legal action, High Court hears
Alleged security force collusion in up to 30 murders carried out by a loyalist terror gang should be examined in a thematic legal action, the High Court heard on Thursday.
Lawyers for the families of those killed by the Ulster Volunteer Force's Mid-Ulster unit want claims of state involvement in weapons importation considered together.
It represents the first attempt of its kind to secure judicial oversight of a combined raft of cases stretching back three decades.
Solicitor Rosie Kinnear of KRW Law, the firm representing victim's relatives, said: "This feeds in to our view, and the clients' views, that collusion is something that needs to be looked at in the round and in context."
Damages claims are being brought against the police and Ministry of Defence for alleged negligence, misfeasance in public office and investigative failings.
Proceedings all centre on the suspected role of agents in the ruthless UVF gang operating in the Mid Ulster area during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
A major consignment if weapons smuggled in from South Africa is said to feature in all the cases.
A Police Ombudsman report into the killing of six Catholic men at Loughinisland in June 1994 concluded that loyalist informers involved in bringing in the guns were protected from investigation.
A rifle used in the massacre was part of the shipment imported in 1987.
In court today lawyers for the families launched their bid to have all the litigation linked.
Mr Justice Stephens was told suspects that may be informants were involved.
With the same batch of guns used, potential state knowledge and failures were raised.
Counsel argued that it may be a more efficient use of court time to consider the cases "in their totality".
He added: "The fundamental issue is that of weapon linkage."
During the hearing Mr Justice Stephens raised the potential for any moves to secure public interest immunity or secret, closed material proceedings.
Adjourning the application, he confirmed a further review in four weeks for an update on the position of Crown solicitors.