Belfast Telegraph

High Court order for police to disclose files a 'major breakthrough' in two actions over alleged state collusion, lawyers claim

By Alan Erwin

A High Court order for police to disclose files held on a loyalist informer represents a major breakthrough in two actions over alleged state collusion with paramilitary killers, lawyers claimed on Tuesday.

The Chief Constable has been set a final autumn deadline to produce all relevant documents in a claim brought by John Flynn, a north Belfast man who survived two UVF attempts on his life.

It has emerged that the cut-off also applies in separate proceedings brought by Michael Monaghan, the son-in-law of murder victim Sean McParland.

Mr McParland, 55, was shot by a loyalist gang while babysitting Mr Monaghan's four children at Skegoneill Avenue in Belfast in February 1994.

Both Mr Flynn and Mr Monaghan are suing the PSNI for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office over the suspected involvement of an agent in the terrorist attacks.

On Friday a judge warned he will strike out the police defence to the claims - the first of their kind - unless there is full disclosure by October 1.

Solicitor Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, who acts for both plaintiffs, described the order as "hugely significant" for all litigation in this area.

She said: "It is galling for clients bereaved by the conflict to face arguments from the state suggesting that insufficient money or lack of resources are the the reasons that court orders cannot be complied with in their cases. 

"We are pleased that these arguments were dismissed by the court in this extremely critical judgement."

Ms McKeegan vowed:"We intend to press forward to trial on receipt of long awaited disclosure in these important cases. 

"These will be the first state collusion cases to be adjudicated on in the High Court in Northern Ireland."

The actions centre on alleged police collusion with a loyalist agent suspected of up to 15 murders.

Mr Flynn, 57, is suing over murder bids allegedly carried out by an 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 the city.

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

In 2014 the PSNI admitted his misfeasance claim and accepted he should be paid damages.

But the force emphatically denies negligence or having ever employed the covert human intelligence source  - identified only in the case as 'Informant 1'.

The agent is suspected of being linked to 10-15 murders, punishment shootings, serious beatings, conspiracy to murder, robbery, hijackings and drug dealing.

Mr Flynn's action was triggered by the findings of Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan that some Special Branch officers colluded with loyalist killers.

Her Operation Ballast report, issued back in 2007, centred on the activities of a UVF gang allegedly led by Mount Vernon man Mark Haddock.

As part of the lawsuit Mr Flynn's lawyers are continuing to seek access to PSNI documents.

They argued the police admission of partial liability was a tactical move to avoid handing over all files on the informant and cover over the full extent of alleged collusion.

An affidavit filed by Mr Flynn claimed police either failed to arrest the agent for the murders and other crimes or else conducted "sham" interviews, despite knowing he was a leading UVF figure.

Misleading records were deliberately compiled, while other documents and forensic exhibits were either destroyed or lost, he alleged.

Mr Flynn also claimed: "I believe that the police knew I was at risk from Informant 1 and were quite content to let me be murdered by him and his associates."

Last year a High Court judge ordered the handover of 13 categories of police documents.

Counsel for the Chief Constable sought more time to provide discovery, stressing that the material being sought covers a period of more than a decade.

It was claimed that it could take years to identify all the files, with 1,500 documents said to relate ton Informant 1.

A Public Interest Immunity (PII) process alone would cost in excess of £300,000, according to a Superintendent asked to assess the scale.

But despite accepting the complexity of the discovery process, Mr Justice Stephens held that resource implications would not be of the extent suggested.

Extending time for full compliance until the autumn, the judge stressed no further period would be permitted.

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