19/11/2010

Policing Board To Also Monitor Collusion

A special committee has been established within Northern Ireland's police oversight body to monitor an often-controversial investigation into alleged collusion.

It emerged on Thursday afternoon that the NI Policing Board has set up the Special Purposes Committee to monitor the PSNI investigation - in parallel with a separate oversight panel led by the former Police Ombudsman.

The Committee, consisting of seven members, will be "strictly bound by confidentiality and will take forward a programme of work meeting initially on a monthly basis and will report only by exception", said a Board statement.

The Policing Board's Acting Chairman Brian Rea said: "The Board has held lengthy discussions on this issue and has now agreed a mechanism to take forward the statutory responsibilities in respect of monitoring the ongoing investigation."

The news came as it was revealed that the former NI Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan - along with a barrister - are to oversee the ongoing police investigation into murders and other serious crimes committed by the loyalist UVF in north Belfast.

The police said the panel of Baroness O'Loan and Richard Harvey was set up at the request of victims and families and they will be briefed on the investigation and will act on their behalf.

Originally known as Operation Ballast, then renamed 'Stafford', it was launched after Baroness O'Loan's official Ombudsman investigation into allegations of collusion between police officers and the Mount Vernon UVF.
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She found evidence that some loyalists had been RUC Special Branch agents and that some police officers had colluded with them to protect them from arrest and prosecution.

The current investigation was criticised after responsibility was handed over from the Historical Enquiries Team to the PSNI Crime Operations Branch earlier this year - with the operational name change following.

Now, a statement issued by the PSNI has said the Baroness's panel had been set up "to address issues of confidence and to demonstrate in good faith the scale and extent of the investigative work which is being undertaken".

A complaint by Newtownabbey man, Raymond McCord Senior, whose son, an RAF ex-serviceman was among those murdered, prompted Baroness O'Loan's original report.

That request to the Office of the Police Ombudsman was received from Mr McCord in May 2002 and her subsequent report was then published on 22 January 2007.

It contained 20 recommendations, with some 17 recommendations relating to the PSNI, one of these stated, "that the NI Policing Board should establish a mechanism to review the PSNI response to the recommendations made in this Report within a period of six months and at appropriate intervals thereafter".

This Special Purposes Committee - which will virtually 'shadow' Baroness O'Loan's oversight role - has now been revealed to be the Board's Acting Chair, Brian Rea, Acting Vice Chair, Gearóid Ó hEára, Martina Anderson MLA, Dominic Bradley MLA, Basil McCrea MLA, Trevor Ringland and Jimmy Spratt, also an MLA.

(BMcC/KMcA)

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