Police chief moves to establish collusion investigation team following Glenanne gang court ruling
The PSNI Chief Constable has moved to established an independent investigation team to examine claims of collusion.
Simon Byrne made the move following a Court of Appeal judgment that found bereaved relatives were being denied a legitimate expectation an independent police team oversee a probe into a loyalist terror unit - known as the Glenanne gang - which is linked to more than 100 murders.
The chief constable said: “Our thoughts first and foremost, are with the Barnard family and those with them in court today. They like too many other families have suffered as a result of the Troubles and, understandably, they continue to seek answers in respect of the deaths of their loved ones.
“I accept today’s judgment and, while we will take time to consider the fullness of its implications, we will now commence work to appoint the Independent Police Team to conduct an analytical report on collusion as ordered by the court.”
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan held there was a "clear and unambiguous" representation that an overarching analysis of suspected state collusion around the Glenanne gang's series of killings in the 1970s.
Although he found no enforceable duty under human rights law due to the passage of time, Sir Declan indicated the onus was now on police to consider whether to complete and publish a thematic report.
He said: "The Chief Constable's task is to appoint independent officers who should then determine how to respond to the expectation."
The verdict came in a bid by the PSNI to overturn a ruling that the force had unlawfully frustrated any chance of an effective investigation into the Glenanne gang's deadly attacks.
Proceedings were brought by Edward Barnard, whose 13-year-old brother Patrick was among four people killed in a St Patrick's Day bombing at the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon in March, 1976.
Five years later Dungannon UVF member Garnet James Busby received a life sentence after admitting his role in the no-warning attack and other terrorist offences.
The murder gang based at a farm in Glenanne, Co Armagh, allegedly contained members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment.
Up to 120 murders in nearly 90 incidents in Mid Ulster and Irish border areas are under scrutiny.
They include outrages such as the 1975 Miami Showband Massacre, where three members of the popular group were taken from their tour bus and shot dead on a country road in Banbridge, County Down, and the Step Inn pub bombing in Keady a year later, which claimed the lives of two Catholics.
It has also been linked to the murder of 33 people, including a pregnant woman, in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.
Belfast Telegraph Digital