Belfast Telegraph

Police Ombudsman branded 'toxic'

The "toxic" Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is not presenting a balanced view of historical killings, it has been claimed.

The association representing retired police officers said it will not encourage members to engage with the under-fire watchdog on some investigations into decades-old events over fears they do not receive a fair hearing. Sinn Fein has accused them of having something to hide.

Ombudsman Michael Maguire warned that his office should be able to compel the former members to assist its inquiries into how detectives handled cases at the time and to produce all documentation in their possession.

But Stormont Democratic Unionist Jonathan Craig said: "They were never envisaged as the body who would reinvestigate the past, therein lies the poison within the Ombudsman's office.

"It makes them toxic, they are continually looking into things which they are not giving a balanced view of the circumstances at the time."

The Northern Ireland Retired Police Officers' Association said it would not co-operate with historical investigations where breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights are alleged.

It is seeking an independent legal mechanism for assessing evidence and an independent appeals and complaints mechanism following an ombudsman investigation.

It follows a report into a August 1988 IRA bombing in Londonderry that killed three people. The Ombudsman criticised officers for failing to warn people about the device.

Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Pat Sheehan said e ven with grievance procedures there still would not be agreement to force former officers to co-operate.

"If former police officers are asked to co-operate with an investigation why on earth would they refuse?" he asked.

"There is absolutely no reason other than that they have something to hide."

Mr Sheehan asked Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott about the organisation he belonged to, the Ulster Defence Regiment.

"How many of his colleagues had dual membership or was he some sort of Colonel Blimp, didn't realise they were out killing Catholics while he was doing his duty?"

Cries of "shameful" echoed around the benches of the Stormont chamber.

Mr Elliott said: "Those scurrilous remarks of someone who is a convicted terrorist in this province is shameful, shameful against people who were upholding law and order.

"Why doesn't he go to Mr (Martin) McGuinness and tell him to come and give the evidence that he should?

"He hasn't the courage, the way he sneaked behind ditches when he was in the Provisional IRA, is that what he wants to continue to do?

"This is a democratic process here Mr Sheehan, something you may not be overly au fait with, but it is something that we have here. I did not go out and murder people on the streets of Northern Ireland like he and his colleagues did."

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