Belfast Telegraph

Police liable over UVF agent but will fight files handover

By Alan Erwin

The PSNI has admitted a claim of wrongdoing in public office over the handling of a loyalist paramilitary agent, the High Court has heard.

Counsel for the Chief Constable also accepted that a north Belfast Catholic man who survived two UVF murder bids was now entitled to damages.

But efforts to gain access to a "massive" body of police documents are to be resisted amid concerns disclosure could impact on ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

John Flynn sued the force over two attempts on his life allegedly linked to a police 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 north Belfast.

Five years later a second attempt was made to kill him in a failed car bomb attack.

Mr Flynn (55) issued proceedings against the PSNI for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office. His action is linked to former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's findings that some Special Branch officers colluded with loyalist killers.

Baroness O'Loan's report, issued back in 2007, centred on the activities of a UVF gang led by agent Mark Haddock.

In court yesterday Nicolas Hanna QC, for the Chief Constable, confirmed partial liability had been accepted in Mr Flynn's claim.

He told Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan the action relates to the handling of an informant only identified in the papers as 'Informant 1'. "This case clearly raises some difficult and sensitive issues," he said.

"In June, or shortly before June, the defence was amended to admit misfeasance in public office."

Mr Hanna added: "There should be damages for personal injury."

Despite that admission the PSNI denies ever employing Informant 1 or in any way encouraging the attacks on Mr Flynn.

Attempts by the plaintiff's legal team to gain access to up to 94 different categories of police documents as part of the ongoing case are to be opposed, Mr Hanna said.

The barrister questioned the relevance and need to disclose the material given the admission.

Providing discovery of everything sought could also have disproportionate implications for costs and resources, it was contended.

Mr Hanna also argued that it could have a knock-on effect for continuing probes and criminal prosecutions involving crimes by the UVF.

Following submissions Sir Declan agreed to adjourn the case until next month.


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