Belfast Telegraph

David Cameron: We 'learned lessons' from Pat Finucane murder

By David Young

The state's handling of intelligence informers in the fight against terrorism has been transformed from the era that witnessed collusion in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, the Prime Minister has insisted.

David Cameron said "lessons had been learned" as he outlined how the Government had responded to the findings of a damning report into the loyalist killing of the father-of-three in 1989.

Mr Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife Geraldine and their three children inside their north Belfast home in February 1989.

The Government-commissioned review of the controversial murder, published two years ago by Sir Desmond de Silva, detailed shocking levels of state involvement.

The collusion highlighted by Sir Desmond included spreading malicious propaganda that Mr Finucane was sympathetic to the IRA; one or possibly more police officers proposing him as a target to loyalists, and the mishandling of state agents inside the UDA who were involved in the murder.

While Sir Desmond found no evidence of an over-arching conspiracy by the authorities to target the 38-year-old lawyer, he said the actions of a number of state employees had "furthered and facilitated'' the shooting, while there had also been efforts to thwart the subsequent criminal investigation.

As he accepted the report's findings in the House of Commons in December 2012, Mr Cameron reiterated an apology to the Finucane family and also pledged that the Government would examine the review in detail to identify potential lessons.

He asked the secretaries for Defence and Northern Ireland, and the Cabinet Secretary, to conduct an assessment and yesterday he published their joint findings.

"The joint report describes the action government departments have demonstrated in response to Sir Desmond de Silva's report and the ways in which their internal processes have changed in the areas de Silva highlights," the Prime Minister said in a written statement to Parliament.

"Significant changes have been made since the time of Patrick Finucane's murder to improve the situation and today's framework for operations bears little resemblance to that of 1989."

He added: "Additionally, there is far more effective independent oversight and control than existed in 1989."

The report revealed that the MOD was unable to take disciplinary action against officers criticised by Sir Desmond as they had since left service and prosecutors had already concluded they would not face criminal charges.

Mr Cameron said that the approach of the police and the intelligence agencies to handling Covert Human Intelligence Sources had been "completely transformed" since the "appalling events" under consideration by Sir Desmond.

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