Belfast Telegraph

Delay in judgement frustrating Loughinisland families

Judge will rule in week on report by Ombudsman

By Allan Preston

The daughter of a man killed in the Loughinisland bar massacre has spoken of her frustration after legal delays.

Sinn Fein MLA Emma Rogan's father was one of six Catholic men gunned down by loyalists in the Heights Bar on June 18, 1994 as he watched a World Cup fixture between Ireland and Italy.

Yesterday a High Court judge delayed a ruling on a damning watchdog report that suggested RUC officers had colluded in the killings. Mr Justice McCloskey has the power to formally quash the 2016 report from the Police Ombudsman Michael Maguire, but said he would now deliver his findings next Friday.

Speaking outside court yesterday, Ms Rogan said: "This development has arisen in the courts so we will wait and see what happens. With the delay we're frustrated, but we welcome the opportunity for our legal team to explore this development and see where we go from there."

Solicitor Niall Murphy, who represents the Loughinisland families, said the delay was to allow a "significant issue" in the case to be explored and "we'll consider our options as information becomes available".

The High Court judge agreed to a one-week adjournment after the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, Dr Michael Maguire, appointed a new senior counsel.

The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, said he wanted more time to consider issues in a legal challenge from two retired senior policemen.

Mr Justice McCloskey said: "The court will list the case next Friday morning to deal with its ruling on that application and, if appropriate, its decision on remedy and costs."

In December he delivered a landmark ruling, calling the Ombudsman report "unlawful and procedurally unfair."

He argued the Ombudsman had exceeded his powers and that the former policemen had been effectively "accused, tried and convicted without notice and in their absence".

His verdict was made during a legal challenge to the Ombudsman's report by retired officers Raymond White and Thomas Hawthorne. Dr Maguire's report said that police had no prior knowledge of the attack, but that there had been "catastrophic failings" in the investigation.

This included a delay in arresting suspects within 24 hours, that one suspect was an informer and police were aware of a UVF gang in South Down linked to previous murders.

Mr Justice McCloskey noted in his judgment last month that Mr Hawthorne was Northern Ireland's first recipient of the Queen's Gallantry Medal and had frequently been targeted by terrorists in his career.

He also held the report did not accuse or find him guilty of the "catastrophic failures" of the investigation.

The judge said Mr Hawthorne should be excluded from the charge that collusion was a significant feature in the atrocity.

He also said the finding that RUC officers colluded with the UVF in the attack meant there was a risk it could be viewed as being no different from a guilty verdict in a criminal trial.

This was problematic, he said, as no officer had ever been prosecuted or subject to any disciplinary offences.

Belfast Telegraph


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