The PSNI police has been told “defending the indefensible is no longer acceptable” after a report was published into its failure to disclose important information in relation to a case of alleged collusion between its predecessor, the RUC, and unionist paramilitaries.
A report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate criticised the PSNI’s failure to disclose information on the murder of five Catholic men by a pro-British death squad at a bookmakers shop in 1992.
It called for a review of appointment and training of PSNI staff and their interaction with the Office of the Police Ombudsman.
Sean Graham’s bookmakers on Belfast’s Ormeau Road was filled with 13 customers shortly before 2.30pm on February 5, 1992 when two masked loyalist gunmen burst through the door.
In less than 20 seconds the gunmen fired 46 rounds hitting all but one of those trapped in the tiny room.
Jack Duffin (66), William McManus (54), Christy Doherty (52) and Peter Magee (18) were all killed outright as one gunman opened fire with an assault rifle while an accomplice walked through the shop shooting the dead and injured as they lay defenceless on the ground.
Fifteen-year-old school boy James Kennedy died on arrival at hospital.
Relatives for Justice chief executive Mark Thompson, who has supported the families of those killed, said the “PSNI has treated the office of the Police Ombudsman with utter contempt when it comes to legacy issues”.
“A culture exists within the PSNI that seeks to defend the RUC Special Branch and this is the root cause of the problem,” he added. “Defending the indefensible is no longer acceptable.
“The PSNI has been in the vanguard of denying families access to files and documents concerning the murders of their loved ones; despite their public pronouncements to the contrary.
“One only has to look at the long list of cases where they have fought families in the courts to prevent disclosures and the publication of reports in murders by illegal paramilitaries.
“The ordinary public might ask why?
“The families bereaved and those injured might well guess the answer.”
The report follows a similar inspection released in December 2016 into the PSNI’s failure to disclose information and material to the Coroner’s Service.
“This is the latest in a long line of such failures,” said Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly.
“Such practices are indicative of a sustained and systemic position adopted by the PSNI to delay the release of relevant information to key criminal justice agencies. As such they seriously undermine attempts to develop levels of confidence in policing and are clearly unacceptable.
“The PSNI now need to work closely with all the criminal justice agencies as an imperative to developing confidence in their disclosure processes.
“This can be best accomplished by ensuring the Police Ombudsman has unfettered access to information held by the PSNI.”