16 April 2006

O'Loan may force BBC to hand over tape

Sunday Life

Alan Murray
16 April 2006

THE Police Ombudsman is considering legal action against the BBC to obtain a videotaped interview with a former RUC detective who may have crucial information about police spies in the UVF.

The BBC has already refused a request from Raymond McCord snr to view the tape. His son, also Raymond, was murdered by the terrorists in 1997.

It's understood a similar request by Nuala O'Loan met with the same response.

The interview - with ex-detective Trevor McIlwrath - was taped several months ago.

It is believed to contain allegations about the activities of police informers inside the north Belfast UVF - including their involvement in killings.

Mr McCord has made a statement to the Ombudsman saying he believes the tape could assist the probe into allegations that RUC agents inside the UVF engaged in murder.

He told Sunday Life: "I have asked the BBC to allow me to see this tape, but they refused.

"Any material that helps the Ombudsman's investigators to piece together the activities of police agents within the UVF in north Belfast should be given to her office.

"I believe the BBC has a duty to assist the Ombudsman in conducting what is a very serious investigation."

The Public Prosecution Service is yet to rule on whether former Special Branch agent-handlers should face charges in relation to the activities of spies inside the UVF.

Mrs O'Loan is expected to wait until the PPS reaches its decision before publishing her long-awaited report.

However, her lawyers are considering whether to launch a court action to force the BBC to hand over the tape.

One Belfast lawyer said: "If the tape contains material which relates to her investigation, she may be well within her rights to obtain it to view its contents and take any action which might be warranted arising from it.

"If she didn't view the tape, it could be argued that her investigation did not examine all the available evidence."

A spokesman for the Ombudsman said: "The McCord inquiry is ongoing and we are continuing to pursue a number of lines of inquiry. It's unlikely the inquiry will be completed before end of the month."

No one from the BBC was available for comment.

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