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Justice chiefs 'taking too long' over office for loyalist killings probe

Published 29/01/2016

Craig McCausland was shot dead in Belfast in 2005
Craig McCausland was shot dead in Belfast in 2005

Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman has accused the Justice Department of taking too long to approve a new office for investigators probing four loyalist murders where the killers were allegedly shielded by police.

Craig McCausland, 20, was gunned down at his home in Dhu Varren Park in North Belfast in July 2005. Three other killings are linked.

A solicitor for Mr McCausland's family said the case involved allegations of collusion between the Shankill UVF and security forces.

The Ombudsman's office has requested funding for an additional office to house investigators but faces a year-long delay.

Ombudsman lawyer Seamus McIlroy told a review of Mr McCausland's case: "I used to work in civil service circles and sometimes obstacles are thrown up that can belie common sense.

"You always get the sense and feeling sometimes that, particularly with regard to business cases, they are a moveable feast."

The Ombudsman is examining claims of police misconduct in relation to four murders between 2000 and 2010 blamed on the Shankill Road UVF.

The victims were loyalists Jackie Coulter and Bobby Mahood, who were shot dead on the Crumlin Road in August 2000; Mr McCausland, who was shot in his home in Woodvale in July 2005; and former loyalist prisoner Bobby Moffett, who was gunned down on the Shankill Road in May 2010.

Mr McIlroy added: "The team that is to deal with the investigation in relation to those matters is significantly under-funded and under-resourced and there is a business case with the DOJ solely to deal with these linked investigations.

"The stumbling block is in relation to accommodation, which could add a year potentially before the business case could be sorted out, which is something the Police Ombudsman has found difficult to comprehend."

He said they knew somewhere they could put the investigators.

"To jump through the civil service hoops you are required to identify a number of other premises and then compare and contrast and by the time you go through that the other locations are probably not likely to be available.

"We are hopeful that the department will listen to our concerns and move swiftly on the matter."

A DoJ spokesman said: "When dealing with public money, especially in the current financial environment, it is vital that we ensure the best use of the limited resources available. This means we must consider the alternative options available in order to obtain value for money.

"In this particular case an initial business case was received from the Ombudsman in the late summer of 2015 and, after some discussions with the Department, a more refined, focused business case was received in November.

"Since then work between the Ombudsman's office and the Department has continued in order to ensure that any future funding will obtain the best outcomes in what is an extremely important and challenging investigative area."

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