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Belfast man John Flynn, who survived two UVF murder bids, entitled to damages after PSNI admits misuse of power over handling of loyalist paramilitary agent, court hears

Action linked to Police Ombudsman findings that Special Branch officers colluded with loyalist killers

Published 16/09/2015

John Flynn sued the force over two attempts on his life allegedly linked to a police agent who operated in the city's Mount Vernon area
John Flynn sued the force over two attempts on his life allegedly linked to a police agent who operated in the city's Mount Vernon area

The PSNI has admitted a claim of wrongdoing in public office over the handling of a loyalist paramilitary agent, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the Chief Constable also accepted that a north Belfast Catholic man who survived two UVF murder bids is now entitled to damages.

But efforts to gain access to a "massive" body of police documents are to be resisted amid concerns disclosure could impact on ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

John Flynn sued the force over two attempts on his life allegedly linked to a police agent who operated in the city's Mount Vernon area.

In 1992 a gunman tried to shoot him after he was lured to Whiteabbey Hospital on the outskirts of north Belfast.

Five years later a second attempt was made to kill him in a failed car bomb attack.

Mr Flynn, 55, issued proceedings against the PSNI for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office.

His action is linked to former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's findings that some Special Branch officers colluded with loyalist killers.

Baroness O'Loan's report, issued back in 2007, centred on the activities of a UVF gang allegedly led by agent Mark Haddock.

In court today Nicolas Hanna QC, for the Chief Constable, confirmed partial liability has been accepted in Mr Flynn's claim.

He told Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan the action relates to the handling of an informant only identified in the papers as 'Informant 1'.

"This case clearly raises some difficult and sensitive issues," he said.

"In June, or shortly before June the defence was amended to admit misfeasance in public office."

Mr Hanna added: "There should be damages for personal injury".

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Despite that admission the PSNI emphatically denies ever employing Informant 1 or in any way encouraging the attacks on Mr Flynn.

Attempts by the plaintiff's legal team to gain access to up to 94 different categories of police documents as part of the ongoing case are to be opposed, Mr Hanna said.

The barrister questioned the relevance and need to disclose the material given the admission made.

Providing discovery of everything being sought could also have disproportionate implications for costs and resources, it was contended.

Mr Hanna also argued that it could a knock-on effect for continuing probes and criminal prosecutions involving alleged UVF crime.

Following submissions Sir Declan agreed to adjourn the case until next month.

Outside court Mr Flynn's solicitor, Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, claimed police have an obligation to disclose material relevant to his case.

She said: "The PSNI have now accepted in both written and oral submissions to the court that  Informant 1, who our client alleges made two attempts on his life was retained by them as an employee.

"We are aware that the defendants hold sensitive documents on their custody, possession or power that are relevant to the plaintiff's case which are discoverable and are crucial to the assessment of damages."

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