A total of 49 cases in which members of the RUC/PSNI police were responsible for extra-judicial killings have been consigned to a “legal limbo”, according to reports.
These cases, some of them involving the so-called ‘shoot to kill’ ambushes and assassinations, were sent to the Police Ombudsman’s office four years ago.
They were not investigated, with the Ombudsman blaming European legislation which prohibits police forces from investigating themselves.
Among the cases which have been shelved are six killings carried out by the police in County Armagh in the space of a single month.
IRA members Sean Burns, Gervaise McKerr and Eugene Toman were shot dead by RUC members in in November 1982 as was 17-year-old civilian Michael Tighe.
The following month two other local men, Seamus Grew and Roddy Carroll, were shot dead in a police ambush after they were suspected of being members of the INLA.
Sinn Féin Assembly member Gerry Kelly has called for new legislation to correct what he called an “anomaly” in the law.
“This adds insult to injury and is a further injustice to the families,” he said.
“The Police Ombudsman must have known about this before the court hearing in May. Either they were sleeping through it or they decided not to act upon it.
“Families who have loved ones killed have the right to an effective, independent and prompt investigation under law. This appears to be a legislative anomaly.
“If that is the case then it needs to be fixed in legislation. I will be seeking clarity from the Minister for Justice because he is responsible for the powers vested in this Office.”
Mr Kelly said the development was yet another blow to the disgraced Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchinson.
“It underlines why he must leave. The independence and effectiveness of the Office must be restored.
“That means that the Office must be given the freedom and resources to use its existing powers and be given the additional powers the Office requires to do its job successfully. This includes the power to compel retired police officers to co-operate with investigations by the Police Ombudsman.”