Belfast Telegraph

Hamill report publication delayed

The Government is set to delay publication of an inquiry into how police in Northern Ireland handled the sectarian murder of Catholic man Robert Hamill.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson said the public inquiry's report, which was expected to be released within weeks, had to be shelved following the recent decision to proceed with prosecutions against three people, including a former police officer, in connection with the case.

Mr Hamill, 25, was beaten to death by a loyalist mob in the predominantly Protestant town of Portadown, Co Armagh, in 1997 as he walked home after a night out with friends.

Controversy has focused on allegations that armed police at the scene failed to intervene to prevent the attack and that the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) subsequently mishandled the investigation. No-one has been convicted of the murder of the father-of-three.

Mr Paterson said the man's family had agreed to the delay under the circumstances. He also announced, however, that lawyers from the Northern Ireland Office and the Police Service of Northern Ireland will begin legal checks on the report to ensure its contents do not pose a threat to an individual or to national security.

In a written ministerial statement released at Westminster, Mr Paterson said: "The House will be aware of the announcement made by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on December 21, 2010.

"In that statement, the PPS confirmed that, following a review of all the available evidence including that given to the Hamill Tribunal, it concluded that the test for prosecution is met in respect of two persons for an offence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and one person for an offence of doing an act with intent to pervert the course of justice.

"As I informed the House in my written statement of December 16, 2010, the Hamill Inquiry intends to complete its report by the end of February.

"It remains my intention to publish the report as soon as practicable, but in light of the legal proceedings against these three individuals, I have decided not to publish the inquiry's report until the legal proceedings have concluded; to do so would certainly jeopardise these individuals' right to a fair trial."

A spokesman for the inquiry said: "The inquiry is completely content with the statement that the Secretary of State has made to the Commons today, and considers this to be the best way forward."

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