Ombudsman fails in bid to stop legal action by family of Loughinisland victim
Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman has failed in a bid to halt a legal action brought by the widow of a man murdered in the Loughinisland atrocity.
Marie Byrne is suing over a previous incumbent's report which found insufficient evidence of collusion between RUC officers and the loyalist paramilitary killers.
She is claiming damages in connection with the conclusions reached by former Ombudsman Al Hutchinson.
An application was mounted at the High Court in Belfast to have the case stopped at a preliminary stage for having no reasonable cause of action.
But although a judge agreed to strike out part of the claim for negligence, he rejected attempts to also halt breach of statutory duty allegations.
Mrs Byrne's 39-year-old husband Eamon was among six men shot dead at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down in June 1994.
UVF gunmen opened fire as their victims watched a World Cup football match.
Adrian Rogan, 34, Malcolm Jenkinson, 53, Barney Green, 87, Daniel McCreanor, 59, and Patrick O'Hare, 35, also lost their lives, while others present were wounded in the attack.
In 2006 the bereaved families and survivors lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman, alleging significant failures in the police investigation and collusion between RUC officers and the killers.
Among their concerns was the getaway car used by the terrorists being destroyed ten months after the shootings and not retained for evidential purposes.
In 2011 Mr Hutchinson, the Ombudsman at the time, published a report which was highly critical of aspects of the police investigation.
However, he concluded there was not enough evidence to support the families' collusion claims.
That report was later quashed by the High Court, resulting in a fresh probe and different findings reached by the current Ombudman in 2016.
According to Dr Michael Maguire collusion between some officers and the loyalists was a significant feature in the murders.
Mrs Byrne's lawsuit against the Police Ombudsman's Office relates to the earlier, Hutchinson report.
She alleges that she suffered personal injury, loss and damage as a result of negligence, breach of statutory duty, misfeasance in public office and breach of Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Lawyers for the watchdog body sought to have her case thrown out, contending that it amounted to an abuse of process.
Ruling on the application, Master McCorry said he could not safely say the alleged human rights violations were unarguable.
Turning to the claim for negligence, he noted this related to now the killings were examined before the Hutchinson report was published.
"The plaintiff has not suffered nervous shock as a result of a sudden appreciation of flaws in the investigative process, which would not of course of itself constitute a horrifying event," Master McCorry said.
"Rather she has suffered an understandable distress at the way the investigation was handled."
He held that her claim in negligence was to be struck out because she cannot show, on the basis of pleadings and medical evidence, actionable loss or injury due to any alleged breach of duty of care by the defendant.
But the Master also confirmed: "The plaintiff's claims pursuant to Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention are not struck out as disclosing no reasonable cause of action, and the same
applies to the plaintiff's claim in misfeasance in public office."
Belfast Telegraph Digital