Belfast Telegraph

Judge refuses PSNI's High Court appeal for disclosure of loyalist informer files

The PSNI has been denied permission to appeal a High Court order for disclosure of files held on a loyalist informer at the centre of alleged state collusion with paramilitary killers.

A judge refused leave to seek to overturn his autumn deadline for police to produce all relevant documents in two major legal actions.

But lawyers representing the Chief Constable may still make a direct petition to the Court of Appeal to hear their grounds of challenge.

The development came in claims brought by John Flynn, a north Belfast man who survived two UVF attempts on his life, and 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.

Last month 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.

An initial legal attempt to appeal his order was rejected earlier this week.

Following that outcome solicitor Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, who acts for both plaintiffs, claimed there is a strategy to "subvert" the proceedings.

She said: "Our view is that this appeal is entirely without merit and its sole purpose is to delay truth and justice to our clients. 

"In refusing to allow the PSNI leave, the court have yet again endorsed our stance."

Both 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 to 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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