Tribunal judges who examine allegations about covert investigations are considering complaints made by two former senior police officers against the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Former West Yorkshire chief constable Mark Gilmore, an ex-PSNI officer, and retired PSNI assistant chief constable Duncan McCausland, have asked the specialist Investigatory Powers Tribunal to examine their concerns about the way they were investigated by the PSNI during an anti-corruption inquiry.
Three tribunal judges oversaw a preliminary hearing in London on Tuesday and said they hoped for a trial in Belfast in July.
A barrister acting as counsel to the tribunal told judges that the inquiry had been named Operation Henley.
“This was a major investigation which was concerned with allegations of an attempt to subvert a procurement exercise relating to the supply of police vehicles,” Rosemary Davidson told judges Sir Richard McLaughlin, Professor Graham Zellick and Desmond Browne QC, in a written explanatory note.
“It was alleged that efforts had been made to influence the outcome of the procurement exercise in favour of a Northern Ireland-based company called Donnelly Brothers.”
She said judges would have to examine provisions in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and were “likely” to be asked whether information had been “covertly” obtained and “covertly” disclosed.
The tribunal litigation marks the latest chapter of a story dating back several years.
Mr Gilmore and Mr McCausland were among nine people interviewed by detectives in the 2014 investigation into bribery and misconduct in public office in relation to the vehicles supply contract.
No charges were ultimately brought against any of the men interviewed – all of whom denied any wrongdoing.
A note on the tribunal website explains that it is a judicial body which operates independently of government to provide a “right of redress for anyone who believes they have been a victim of unlawful action by a public authority using covert investigative techniques”.
The note says the tribunal has a UK-wide jurisdiction and is the “appropriate forum” to consider complaints about any conduct by or on behalf of the “UK Intelligence Community”.
Ms Davidson said in her explanatory note that Mr Gilmore and Mr McCausland were concerned about the behaviour of a detective inspector.
She said judges had been provided with statements alleging that the inspector had asked a manager at a police recreational complex, and another member of staff, to “carry out observations in relation to” Mr Gilmore and Mr McCausland when they were at the complex.
Ms Davidson indicated that the inspector disputed allegations made against him.