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Timing of meeting with corporals killer Maguire a genuine oversight, says PSNI chief 


A message about the meeting tweeted by the Chief Constable

A message about the meeting tweeted by the Chief Constable

Scene at the funeral of IRA man Kevin Brady killed in the Milltown attack, where two soldiers were killed after they were dragged from their car and murdered

Scene at the funeral of IRA man Kevin Brady killed in the Milltown attack, where two soldiers were killed after they were dragged from their car and murdered

Harry Maguire at funeral of Kevin Brady

Harry Maguire at funeral of Kevin Brady


A message about the meeting tweeted by the Chief Constable

The PSNI Chief Constable has said holding a Zoom meeting with a convicted killer a day before the anniversary of the murders for which he was sentenced was a "genuine oversight" by his office.

Simon Byrne held a remote meeting with the head of Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI), Harry Maguire, and the Department of Justice in March.

Mr Maguire was sentenced to 79 years in prison for his part in the murders of Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes, two of the most high-profile and brutal killings of the Troubles.

The pair were beaten by a mob and shot dead after they accidently drove into the funeral cortege of IRA man Kevin Brady, who was killed in Milltown Cemetery by loyalist Michael Stone while attending the funerals of three IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar in March 1988.

Mr Maguire and Alex Murphy were jailed for the attack. The incident was caught on news cameras and by an Army helicopter overhead. Both men were released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In a written question to the Policing Board, former Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt asked Simon Byrne what criteria he applied to deciding upon meeting requests, given he met remotely with Harry Maguire.

Mr Byrne acknowledged some people will have found his decision to meet Mr Maguire "difficult".

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He said: "CRJI is an accredited restorative justice agency that receives public funding. I met with CRJI in response to a request from them to do so.

"The PSNI has had ongoing engagement with CRJI for a number of years. The coinciding of the meeting with the anniversary of the brutal murder of corporals Howes and Wood was a genuine oversight on the part of this office.

"I am very much aware that my meeting people with history similar to the CRJI representative... will be difficult for some people. I do not wish anything I do in that regard to be viewed as undermining my genuine sympathy and respect for all of those who experienced loss as a result of our violent past.

"However, consistent with the test of a legitimate policing purpose, I do consider it appropriate and desirable to engage with all elements of the Northern Ireland justice framework."

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Nesbitt said there needed to be a system in place to ensure police were aware of high-profile anniversaries so that incidents such as the meeting with CRJI did not happen again.

He pointed to the incident in February where a man injured in the 1992 Sean Graham bookmakers' massacre was arrested at a memorial event for the atrocity at the spot where it took place.

"The two rookie cops, in that case, went on duty, and whatever briefing they were given for that day did not include a reminder that it was the anniversary of one of the most notorious atrocities of the Troubles," he said.

"I since found out from the Chief Constable that, in general, they don't put significant anniversaries into their briefings. However, as I understand it, they are now looking at that as a more general oversight."

Mr Nesbitt said many officers may not have experience of the Troubles. "It just seems wrong that officers are going out and are not armed with crucial information. They need a database, so when someone is going on duty, they know that this is the anniversary of X, Y and Z," he added.

"The meeting with Harry Maguire is another symptom of this problem of not having a database. Police are very good at spotting conflicts of interest, but this goes into clashes of interest.

"I mean, meeting a guy about restorative justice the day before the anniversary of murders he was involved in? The Chief Constable should have said, 'Well, let's move the meeting a few weeks'."

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Maguire said CRJI engaged with the police on a daily basis, both locally with neighbourhood teams and strategically with senior PSNI officers.

"We have done so for many years as part of encouraging communities to work with the police on a broad range of community safety issues,” he explained.

"The meeting with the Chief Constable was a natural extension of that work, as we frequently did with the previous Chief Constable, who was a keen supporter of our restorative justice work.

"It is not up to the CRJI to organise the diary of the PSNI Chief Constable, as they have indicated on this matter."

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