Moving files ‘could take a year’ - PSNI

The senior coroner in the North has criticised the PSNI over its latest excuse for refusing to pass on files related to controversial state killings and assassinations.

John Leckey said he received a “far from satisfactory reply” from Matt Baggott to his request for the information.

“The reply gives the impression that he (Mr Baggott) personally felt it didn’t involve him,” Mr Leckey said. A subordinate claimed that unspecified logistical problems were preventing the movement of the files requested.

Mr Leckey had written to Baggott requesting he examine files collated by the inquiry team led by former London police John Stevens. He is seeking to identify papers related to a series of murders that have still to go to inquest.

Preliminary hearings were held in Belfast into two of those deaths last Wednesday: Sean Brown, 61, who was murdered by loyalists in Bellaghy, County Derry in 1997, and Liam Thompson, who was shot dead by gunmen who crossed the peace line into a republican estate in west Belfast three years earlier.

The Stevens Inquiry, which operated between 1989 and 2003, investigated allegations of British state collusion with loyalist paramilitaries during the conflict.

It compiled evidence, stretching up to 84 filing cabinets. However, its final report was never released.

Mr Leckey wants to know whether any of the killings due for inquest are mentioned in the documents. If they are, he wants the files disclosed to the court to assist his investigations.

The British government is desperate to draw a line under conflict-related investigations and inquiries which implicate the Crown forces. Baggott this week repeated a pledge to shut down such investigations by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) within three years.

The PSNI letter to Mr Leckey did not indicate whether the papers would be examined and was written by an unknown police inspector.

“If I write to the chief constable I expect a reply from the chief constable and I want to make that very clear,” Leckey said.

Richard Ferguson, representing the PSNI, admitted the letter was a “holding” response. He claimed that delivery of the files was “logistically challenging” and could take until 2011.

“I thought this would be a matter of just hiring a lorry,” said Mr Leckey.


Meanwhile, Sinn Fein Assembly member Raymond McCartney has said Britain’s “national security” concerns over the Bloody Sunday report are bogus and disingenuous.

It has been 12 years since former British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the inquiry into the massacre 38 years ago.

Mr McCartney said the British government should have published Mark Saville’s mammoth findings before the suspension of the Westminster Parliament for the election.

The next government, likely to be involve more than one party, will have to deal with the inquiry’s conclusions.

Mr McCartney said the families of the 14 men shot dead by British soldiers were frustrated at the continued delays.

“The British government spurned the opportunity to do the right thing for what can only be described as partisan and sectional considerations,” he said.

Relatives of the dead men, civil rights protesters shot dead by paratroopers in Derry in January 1972, pointed out that inquiry chairman Mark Saville had not endangered soldiers or other witnesses throughout the long inquiry and would not have done so in the report.

Mr McCartney added: “Any suggestion that Lord Saville would not have given due regard to so-called British national interest concerns is in my opinion disingenuous and bogus.”

He said the delay until after the British General Election gave a distinct advantage to the British state and its agencies, which received the report from Saville late last month despite families’ concerns about the leaking or other manipulation of the material.

He said there had been no suggestion of a breach of right-to-life considerations.

“It is in this context that the families express their anger, their frustration and their disappointment, all of which in my opinion and I hope in other people’s opinion is totally and absolutely justified,” he said.

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