PSNI given 10 weeks to hand over files on Loughgall ambush
Police have been set a final deadline for disclosure of sensitive documents in a major legal action over the SAS killings of eight IRA men.
The force's defence to the lawsuit focused on events surrounding the Loughgall ambush will be struck out unless the High Court order is complied with by late November, a lawyer said.
The development was described as a "huge step forward" in proceedings brought by the father of one of those shot dead in the Co Armagh village in May 1987.
Undercover soldiers targeted members of the Provisionals' East Tyrone Brigade as they approached an RUC station with a bomb in a hijacked digger.
The IRA men killed were: Jim Lynagh; Padraig McKearney; Gerard O'Callaghan; Tony Gormley; Eugene Kelly; Patrick Kelly; Seamus Donnelly and Declan Arthurs.
An innocent civilian, Anthony Hughes, was also shot dead and his brother wounded when they were caught up in the gunfire.The military operation inflicted the IRA's largest loss of life during the Troubles.
Relatives of those killed claim soldiers operated a deliberate shoot-to-kill policy rather than attempt to make arrests.
Declan Arthurs' father Patrick initially sued just the Ministry of Defence over the ambush. But with the RUC's Mobile Support Unit also believed to have played a role in the operation, the PSNI was joined to the action as the force's successor.
Non-sensitive documents have already been handed over in the legal action.
The scale of the process was revealed previously when the High Court heard police faced trawling through electronic, microfiche and hard copy material in stores holding more than 9.5 million intelligence records.
Amid issues around national security, Mr Arthurs' legal representatives have continued to press for outstanding, sensitive material.
The court was told discovery is a highly complex task, with potentially thousands of redactions to be made under Public Interest Immunity considerations.
But solicitor Claire McKeegan, of KRW Law, confirmed Mr Justice Maguire has now made an 'unless order', giving the PSNI 10 weeks to complete the PII process and hand over the remaining documents.
Following the hearing she said: "If the police do not comply then the allegations that we plead in our statement of complaint will be held at their height and they will be unable to defend this action. We see this as a huge step forward in the proceedings."