Belfast Telegraph

Ex-officers win massacre report court challenge

By Alan Erwin

Two retired senior policemen have won High Court permission to challenge watchdog findings that RUC officers colluded with loyalists who massacred six Catholic men 23 years ago.

Raymond White and Thomas Hawthorne were granted leave to seek a judicial review of the Police Ombudsman report into the Loughinisland atrocity, their lawyer confirmed.

They claim there was no legal power to publish findings which should instead be quashed. The legal action will now proceed to a full hearing in Belfast later this year. UVF gunmen opened fire at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down, as their victims were watching a World Cup match in June 1994.

In June last year the Police Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, said collusion was a significant feature in the murders.

He found no evidence police had prior knowledge of the attack, but identified "catastrophic failings" in the investigation.

One of the suspects in the attack was an informer, according to the findings. Other failures identified in the report included a delay in arresting suspects whose names were known within 24 hours of the shooting.

But Mr White, a representative of the NI Retired Police Officers' Association, and Mr Hawthorne, a retired chief superintendent and former sub-divisional commander in the area, are challenging the legality of the document.

Their legal team contend that the Ombudsman had no right to reach his determination.

The Loughinisland report should only have been released if it recommended prosecutions or disciplinary action, according to their case.

Ernie Waterworth, a solicitor representing Mr White and Mr Hawthorne, confirmed last night that leave to seek a judicial review has been granted. The ruling means that his clients have established an arguable case.

Mr Waterworth also stressed that the Retired Police Officers' Association did not want to cause any more pain for the victims' families.

But at an earlier hearing one of the bereaved spoke of her continued anguish.

Emma Rogan, whose father Adrian was among those killed in the massacre, described the legal challenge as having "a re-traumatising affect".

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