Hamill inquiry delayed again as Woodward stalls

The delayed public inquiry into the death of Robert Hamill, who was kicked to death in Portadown in 1997, faces a new delay.

Full hearings which were due to begin next month have been put on hold because British Secretary Shaun Woodward is still considering a request by the Hamill family to widen the inquiry’s terms of reference.

The first of the oral evidence has yet to start, even though the opening hearing was almost three years ago.

Robert Hamill was kicked to death in Portadown 11 years ago after a vicious attack by unionists in the centre of Portadown. Members of the RUC police, sitting in a nearby Land Rover, failed to intervene.

In January 2007 Mr Hamill’s family asked the then British Secretary Peter Hain to extend the inquiry’s terms of reference to include the Director of Public Prosecutions.

This would allow the inquiry to decide whether the Crown Prosecution Service was at fault in respect of any failure to prosecute individuals following the murder. One man charged with the murder was later acquitted by a court.

Towards the end of last year, the inquiry believed a decision by Shaun Woodward on the Hamill family application was imminent.

A provisional date was then set for the oral hearings to begin on April 8th, but it emerged today that it will be another two weeks before Mr Woodward announces his decision.

A spokesperson for the inquiry said today: “The inquiry is naturally disappointed. The delay is likely to increase the cost of the inquiry. However by taking the decision at this stage to vacate the start date, the inquiry hopes to minimise any such increase.

“Until the decision is announced, the inquiry is not in a position to set a new start date. It will announce one as soon as possible.”


Meanwhile, a PSNI police officer has told the Billy Wright inquiry he has “no recollection” of a document which said the republican paramilitary INLA intended to kill LVF leader inside Long Kesh prison.

The notoroius unionist paramilitary leader was shot dead by INLA prisoners in the jail in December 1997.

The officer, identified only as FG, ran the desk in Special Branch headquarters which dealt with gathering intelligence against the INLA in the late 1990s.

An agent handler told the hearing on Monday he had handed such a report in to the desk, known as E3A, that April.

By May 1997 details of the threat were in a police computer database and the document was produced to the inquiry on Tuesday.

But the Special Branch officer said that he could not remember ever having seen it.

He confirmed the INLA was not on ceasefire at that time and that they were actively targeting people.

He also claimed that all threats against individuals would have led to action being taken - regardless of the intelligence assessment of that threat.

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