31/08/2006

Officers fear for lives over inquiry appearance

A defence lawyer representing 20 former police officers due to testify at the inquiry into the murder of County Armagh man Robert Hamill, has said that they fear that their lives could be in danger if they are identified.

The officers challenged the inquiry after it was ruled that they would not be able to give evidence anonymously.

Officers have asked to be screened and known only by an initial while giving their evidence, which their barrister has said that to deny the men this would be a breach of their human rights.

Robert Hamill, a 25-year-old Catholic man, died in hospital after a sectarian attack in Portadown in 1997.

Eye witnesses have claimed that during the attack, four RUC officers saw what was happening and failed to intervene.

The inquiry into Mr Hamill's death was recommended by retired judge Peter Cory, to determine if police committed any wrongful act or omission.

The inquiry was originally scheduled to begin in Belfast on September 5, however since the High Court challenge, the inquiry has been postponed indefinitely.

(EF/KMcA)

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