Inquiry bid to question prosecutors blocked

The British government has refused to allow the actions of the Crown prosecution service be included in the inquiry into the sectarian murder of Robert Hamill and subsequent cover-up, it has been revealed.

British Secretary Shaun Woodward turned down the family’s request to widen the scope of the investigation to include the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Nobody has ever been convicted of the murder in April 1997 when father-of-two Mr Hamill, 25, a Catholic, was kicked to death by a unionist mob in the centre of Portadown, County Armagh.

RUC (police) members in a nearby Land Rover looked on but failed to intervene. Five of the six people who were arrested for the public attack had the charges dropped for lack of evidence. The magistrate who released the five suspects expressed sympathy with the defendants for the ordeal they had undergone.

Lawyers for the family wanted to question prosecution staff. But eighteen months after submitting their request, Mr Woodward simply rejected it.

There was, he claimed, no justifiable grounds to extend the terms of reference.

The Hamill family was deeply disappointed by the decision, according to their lawyer Bara McGrory. He said it was surprising in view of the fact that the Hamill Inquiry itself made a similar request.

Mr Woodward claimed he made the decision after “careful and detailed consideration”.

“In doing so, I was not conducting a review of prosecutorial decisions myself, I was considering whether there was an issue that needed to be looked at by a public inquiry.”

Even though the first of the oral evidence has yet to start, today’s decision is almost certain to delay it even further.

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