The PSNI police is to finally comply with a court order to hand over top-secret reports on the shoot-to-kill policy widely believed to have operated by the force in the North during the eighties and nineties, it has been revealed.
While the PSNI is still seeking clarification on how much of the gagged Stalker and Sampson documents must be disclosed, Assistant Chief Drew Harris said the service would not go against the direction of the north’s senior coroner John Leckey.
In September Mr Leckey gave new PSNI Matt Baggott until today to release the never-published reports to the coroner’s court to assist his probe into the killings of six men in 1982 by the force, then known as the RUC.
While Mr Leckey was “given sight” of their subsequent reports, he ordered that they be made available to the court, in a censored form if necessary, so the inquests could finally get under way.
Mr Leckey issued the deadline in September, rejecting suggestions by PSNI lawyer Tony McGleenan that the Crown forces would need six months to carry out “security assessments” on the reports.
Mr Harris last week told a meeting of the Policing Board that the service would not ignore its responsibility to the inquests, but left open the possibility of further delay tactics.
“Of course we will comply with the coroner’s direction but there are specific issues that we wish to address,” he said.
“That is ongoing work and I think we will have some clarity around this on the November 9 but certainly we will comply with the coroner’s direction and our responsibility to the coroner’s court in respect of this inquest.”
The shoot-to-kill operations in question were carried out in the County Armagh in late 1982 following an upsurge in IRA activity.
They refer to three separate incidents:
- the shooting dead of IRA men Gervaise McKerr, Eugene Toman and Sean Burns in Lurgan on November 11 1982
- the shooting of Catholic teenager Michael Tighe near Craigavon on November 24 1982
- the killings of INLA suspects Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll near Armagh city on December 12 1982.
SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood welcomed Mr Harris’s pledge to comply with the order.
“It is a welcome principle that documents that do throw light upon the past become more widely available,” he said.
“They may be redacted, they may be amended, but the principle nonetheless is a welcome one and I welcome the police accepting that principle.”