Belfast Telegraph

Loughinisland collusion report changes 'further blow to Police Ombudsman credibility,' says MLA Beattie

By Mark Edwards

Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie said it was a further blow to the credibility of the Police Ombudsman that it had to make amendments to its report into the Loughinisland massacre after it lost a court battle against a former policeman.

Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire agreed to amend his highly controversial June 2016 report which found collusion between the RUC and UVF terrorists who murdered six men as they watched a World Cup Match on TV in 1994.

All references to Ronnie Hawthorne, who was an RUC commander in Downpatrick at the time, have been removed from the report. The amendments were made to ensure he is not connected to any alleged wrongdoing.

The office has withdrawn two paragraphs which referred to police failures in addressing the activities of the UVF in south Down and has replaced them with one in which it continues to acknowledge such failures but adds that these cannot be attributed to any individual police officer.

The Police Ombudsman described the changes as "minor amendments," saying the majority of the report remained unaltered.

Ronald Hawthorne was declared vindicated and victorious in his case against the Police Ombudsman in the High Court on Friday. The judge said the Ombudsman’s office should pay all of Mr Hawthorne's legal costs saying he had "succeeded in full" in his legal challenge against the office.

Amid highly critical comments he expressed "exasperation" over the level of co-operation from the Ombudsman's representatives, accusing them of showing disrespect.

"The court has received no assistance whatsoever, it's completely intolerable," the judge said.

This is a further blow to the credibility of the office and the quality of its work. Doug Beattie

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman, Doug Beattie MLA, said: “The judge today was clearly less than impressed at the conduct of the Ombudsman’s office in this case.

“This is a further blow to the credibility of the office and the quality of its work.

“I have repeatedly highlighted the problems that have arisen due to the casual use of terms such as collusion, whereby the definition has been stretched so wide on occasion as to render it almost meaningless while at the same time having a serious detrimental impact on the likes of the PSNI and RUC, as in this case.

“I note that the ombudsman is still challenging the findings of Mr Justice McCloskey who last year ruled that the ombudsman did not have the legal power to reach a determination of collusion. I await the outcome of that ruling with great interest.”

Those murdered in the Loughinisland massacre were Barney Green, 87; Adrian Rogan, 34; Malcolm Jenkinson, 53; Daniel McCreanor, 59; Patrick O'Hare, 35; and Eamon Byrne, 39.

UVF gunmen opened fire in the Co Down village pub as their victims watched a World Cup football match in June 1994.

Six men were killed, they were Adrian Rogan, 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Barney Green, 87, Daniel McCreanor 59, Patrick O’Hare, 35, and Eamon Byrne, 39. Five others were wounded in the attack.

A Police Ombudsman spokesman said: "The Office has removed text that collusion involved 'catastrophic failures in the police investigation' of the attack and 'the destruction of exhibits and documents', although the determination remains.

"While these remain significant issues in the report, the changes are made in order to clarify that they do not apply to Mr Hawthorne.

"The great majority of the report remains unaltered and the Office will continue to defend the judicial review action taken by the Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers Association regarding our legal powers."

Two retired officers are attempting to have Dr Maguire's report quashed in a legal challenge.

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