Belfast Telegraph

PSNI chief agrees to hand over Loughinisland massacre files to ombudsman

By David Young

The PSNI is to hand over sensitive files to a watchdog investigating complaints against officers.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire had been pursuing legal action against the PSNI in an attempt to force it to hand over the documentation.

Some of the information he requested is believed to relate to informers.

The ombudsman claimed his inability to get his hands on the files had stalled probes into allegations and complaints against the police related to 60 murder investigations.

But the former PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott had insisted that handing over the material could have breached data protection legislation.

Dr Maguire had been granted leave for a judicial review in Belfast High Court, but a judge adjourned proceedings for the summer to enable both sides to try to reach an agreement without the need for a court battle.

George Hamilton, who took over from Mr Baggott in June, held talks with Dr Maguire in an effort to find consensus.

The Policing Board, the PSNI's oversight body, said it had now been informed by Mr Hamilton that a resolution had been reached and the legal action had been withdrawn.

The Police Ombudsman's Office last night confirmed it had withdrawn its legal action against the PSNI. A spokesman for Dr Maguire said: "The PSNI has accepted that the office has a legal right to see any material it wishes to in the course of an investigation."

He said "all outstanding information" asked of the PSNI is now being made available.

Chair of the Policing Board's Performance Committee Jonathan Craig said: "It is welcome that the Chief Constable has satisfactorily resolved this matter with the Police Ombudsman. It is critical for public confidence in the service that there is police co-operation in the provision and disclosure of information to the institutions with legislative responsibility for delivery of independent oversight of the PSNI."

The Loughinisland massacre in 1994, in which six Catholic men were killed by loyalists as they watched a World Cup football match in rural Co Down, is one of the dozens of cases at the centre of the dispute.

It has been alleged that police knew in advance about the attack at the Heights Bar on June 19.

The UVF later claimed responsibility for the killings, but no one was ever been convicted of the murders. Five men survived the attack.

Quotes

"It is crucial that the Police Ombudsman has access to any and all information as the office sees fit. It is essential for public confidence and so that victims and survivors can have complete faith that the past will be dealt with in an open and transparent manner. I am hopeful that whatever information that is contained in these files regarding Loughinisland will be able to assist the Ombudsman in their investigations. The victims, survivors and their supporters deserve to know the truth."

SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie

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