The PSNI police in the north of Ireland are using a new method to try to block an investigation into the murders of 12 people killed in a series of loyalist atrocities.
Police Ombudsman Marie Anderson had been expected to publish a report on a series of murders in south Belfast this autumn, including those murdered during the 1992 Sean Graham massacre, when six people were killed by the loyalist paramilitary UDA at a bookmakers’ shop.
Collusion between the police and loyalist paramilitaries is strongly suspected in the cases. But a report into the murders which was sent to the PSNI earlier this year to be “fact checked” has now been held up indefinitely.
The Police Ombudsman’s Office said this week that in mid-August the PSNI referred “to a potential issue of a Public Interest Immunity (PII) certificate and Closed Material Proceedings (CMP)” in an email to a member of staff.
PII certificates are gag/censorship orders, while CMP refers to secret judicial procedures which take place behind closed doors. Both are used in the north of Ireland to withhold information on state agents, informers and other secretive military and policing activities.
The Police Ombudsman said this week the PII certificate mentioned had been issued in January 2019 in connection with unrelated inquest proceedings.
Relatives say the long-awaited report has already been delayed four times. In a scathing letter delivered to PSNI Chief Simon Byrne on Friday, victims and their families asked why “the PSNI and you, as chief constable sought to thwart the investigation by the police ombudsman”.
Mark Sykes, who was injured in the bookmakers atrocity and whose teenage brother-in-law Peter Magee was shot dead, slammed the latest bogus delay.
Earlier this year Mr Sykes was arrested during a memorial event for the dead on the Ormeau Road.
“The families are devastated at yet another delay, again at the hands of the PSNI, it is now unlikely these families will see an ombudsman’s report published this year,” he said.
“It’s been delay, delay, delay for these families. Some families if this is delayed further may not see truth and justice for their loved ones.”