The legal battle by RUC/PSNI police bidding for anonymity during a public inquiry into the 1997 killing of Catholic man Robert Hamill was sent back to the High Court in Belfast today.
The ruling by Britain’s House of Lords is a setback for Mr Hamill’s family who have been campaigning ofr justice over the collusion of a PSNI unit who sat and watched as Mr Hamill was beaten to death by a sectarian loyalist mob.
Twenty retired policemen and women claimed they would be in fear of their lives if identified. As a ten year campaign for the truth continues, hearings will now be further delayed while legal wrangling continues.
Jane Winter, director of lobby group British/Irish Rights Watch, said the family would be disappointed.
“It means yet more delay for the tribunal because it can’t start until this issue is decided,” she said. “We are going right back to square one, to decide whether the tribunal has been irrational or not.”
Mr Hamill’s sister, Diane, said the family were adamant the RUC/PSNI members involved should appear unscreened.
“They need to stand up and answer questions as who they are. They have done it for years, given evidence in person, and not hid themselves,” she said. “This is an integral part of it. People need to stand up and answer for their actions and lack of action.”
An independent inquiry was recommended by Canadian judge Peter Cory as part of an investigation into collusion north and south of the Border.
The inquiry panel was set up in December 2004, and members were originally scheduled to begin hearing evidence last September.
Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd said that the Hamill Tribunal was being deliberately delayed.
“It is a disgrace that attempts by former members of the RUC to continue their culture of concealment and cover up had allowed the Tribunal to be delayed,” he said.
“This ruling will lead to further delays.
“The origin of the delay is clearly a result of those former members of the RUC who cannot throw off the culture of concealment and cover-up which became a by-word for the force in which they served. This case is not about anonymity, these individuals have already appeared publicly in a court case associated with the murder of Robert Hamill.
“This case is about obstructing and delaying the work of the Tribunal and delaying further the search for the truth in this sectarian murder.
“It is beyond dispute that Robert Hamill was brutally murdered in a random sectarian attack as members of the RUC sat back and watched. At the time of the murder strenuous efforts were made by the RUC to cover-up the circumstances surrounding the killing. It is for this reason that an independent inquiry was needed.
“Nationalists in Portadown will not accept another white wash.”