13 March 2006

Reports’ spotlight on PSNI

Daily Ireland

By Jarlath Kearney

The PSNI will face potentially its worst crisis of confidence in the coming months as Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan completes three critical reports.
The most high-profile of the reports centres on allegations that one or more Special Branch agents operated with impunity as part of an Ulster Volunteer Force gang based in the Mount Vernon district of north Belfast.
This report is anchored around the activities of a senior UVF member allegedly implicated in the killing of the young Protestant man Raymond McCord Jr in 1997.
It has been suggest that more than a dozen killings can be linked with this UVF figure, who was protected for more than a decade because of his work for Special Branch.
Retired RUC detective Jonty Brown has alleged that Special Branch actively blocked CID investigations into the activities of the UVF figure.
Other serious questions for the PSNI are expected to arise when the ombudsman reports on the first killing conducted by the force since it replaced the RUC in 2001.
In 2003, a specialist PSNI unit in Co Armagh shot dead 21-year-old Neil McConville, who had been the subject of intense Special Branch surveillance. He had not been politically involved and controversy has surrounded the circumstances in which he was killed.
It recently emerged that, when investigators of the Police Ombudsman’s office tried to access PSNI files about the incident, they found that a computer hard drive required for investigative reasons had been removed by Special Branch.
The third major report focuses on the nature of the original RUC/PSNI investigation into the murders of Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine in 2000.
Informed sources say the extent and seniority of the PSNI personnel involved in the three cases could create the greatest long-term controversy.

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