Belfast Telegraph

PSNI's Chief Con given October 1 deadline to disclose alleged collusion files

By Alan Erwin

Northern Ireland's Chief Constable has been set a final autumn deadline to disclose all relevant police files in a major High Court action over alleged collusion with a loyalist paramilitary agent suspected of up to 15 murders.

A judge warned that failure to adhere to the October 1 order will result in him striking out the PSNI's defence to a claim brought by a north Belfast man who survived two UVF attempts on his life.

Rejecting a police application for more time to meet discovery obligations, Mr Justice Stephens said: "Years have passed without compliance and there is no clear acceptable plan for future compliance."

The final cut-off point was imposed in proceedings issued by John Flynn.

Mr Flynn, 57, is suing the PSNI over murder bids allegedly carried out by an 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 the city.

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

Mr Flynn brought a lawsuit against the Chief Constable for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office.

In 2014 the PSNI admitted his misfeasance claim and accepted he should be paid damages.

But the force emphatically denies negligence or having ever employed the covert human intelligence source  - identified only in the case as 'Informant 1'.

The agent is suspected of involvement in 10-15 murders, punishment shootings, serious beatings, conspiracy to murder, robbery, hijackings and drug dealing.

Mr Flynn's action was triggered by the findings of Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan that some Special Branch officers colluded with loyalist killers.

Her Operation Ballast report, issued back in 2007, centred on the activities of a UVF gang allegedly led by Mount Vernon man Mark Haddock.

As part of the lawsuit Mr Flynn's lawyers are continuing to seek access to PSNI documents.

They argued the police admission of partial liability was a tactical move to avoid handing over all files on the informant and cover over the full extent of alleged collusion.

An affidavit filed by Mr Flynn claimed police either failed to arrest the agent for the murders and other crimes or else conducted "sham" interviews, despite knowing he was a leading UVF figure.

Misleading records were deliberately compiled, while other documents and forensic exhibits were either destroyed or lost, he alleged.

Mr Flynn also claimed: "I believe that the police knew I was at risk from Informant 1 and were quite content to let me be murdered by him and his associates."

Last year a High Court judge ordered the handover of 13 categories of police documents.

Counsel for the Chief Constable sought more time to provide discovery, stressing that the material being sought covers a period of more than a decade.

It was claimed that it could take years to identify all the files, with 1,500 documents said to relate to Informant 1.

A Public Interest Immunity (PII) process alone would cost in excess of £300,000, according to a Superintendent asked to assess the scale.

But despite accepting the complexity of the discovery process, Mr Justice Stephens held that resource implications would not be of the extent suggested.

He added: "Inherent in the proposition that the defendant has now to start from scratch is the unacceptable inference that the defendant has done nothing, or nothing useful, about discovery over many years."

Extending time for full compliance until the autumn, the judge stressed no further period would be permitted.

He ordered: "Unless the defendant provides discovery by noon on October 1, 2017 the defendant's defence is struck out, with judgment being entered for the plaintiff on the basis of all of the allegations contained in the statement of claim and with damages to be assessed on the same basis."

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