10 May 2006

O'Loan gets legal threat

Belfast Telegraph

Retired senior policeman claims his rights breached

By David Gordon
10 May 2006

Retired senior policeman claims his rights breached

POLICE Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan has been threatened with legal action after criticising a high-profile investigation by a senior RUC detective.

Ex-Chief Superintendent Eric Anderson, now retired, was in overall charge of the inquiry into the death of teenager Alice McLoughlin in Portadown in 1991.

Sixteen-year-old Alice sustained a fatal wound from the gun of an off-duty policeman.

In a report published yesterday, Mrs O'Loan cleared the officer of any involvement in her death.

But she criticised the investigation headed by Mr Anderson, arguing that a more thorough forensic inquiry could have addressed many of the concerns of Alice's family.

Her report did not name Mr Anderson, referring to him only as the senior investigating officer. It also stated that he had refused to co-operate with her office's review of the case.

His lawyer, Lisburn solicitor Jim McFarland, has alleged that his human rights have been breached.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that he is recommending legal action by Mr Anderson.

"It is a clear and unequivocal breach of a person's human rights to publicly criticise him without giving him a chance to defend himself," he said.

The solicitor denied that his client had refused to co-operate with the Ombudsman. He said his co-operation had to be limited for health reasons.

The lawyer also defended the forensic investigation into Alice's death, saying it had exceeded anything carried out in Northern Ireland before, and had involved bringing over a forensics expert from Great Britain.

In her report, Mrs O'Loan stated: "The Police Ombudsman is of the view that it would be both morally and ethically desirable for retired police officers to assist investigation into cases of which they have knowledge, particularly where the family of someone whose death is being investigated need as much information as possible to facilitate some form of closure on such tragic incidents."

A change in the law would be needed to give the Ombudsman the power to compel retired officers to co-operate. Mrs O'Loan intends to raise this issue in a five-year review of the legislation governing her office.

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