PSNI denied appeal against order to disclose files linked to informer

Posted By: August 26, 2017

Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, August 26, 2017

THE PSNI has been denied permission to appeal a High Court order for disclosure of files held on a loyalist informer at the centre of alleged state collusion with

paramilitary killers.

A judge refused leave to seek to overturn his autumn deadline for police to produce all relevant documents in two major legal actions. But lawyers representing the chief constable may still make a petition to the Court of Appeal to hear their grounds of challenge.

The development came in claims brought by John Flynn, a north Belfast man who survived two UVF attempts on his life, and Michael Monaghan, the son-in-law of murder victim Sean McParland.

Mr McParland (55) was shot by a loyalist gang while babysitting Mr Monaghan’s four children at Skegoneill Avenue in Belfast in February 1994.

Both Mr Flynn and Mr Monaghan are suing the PSNI for alleged negligence and misfeasance in public office over the suspected involvement of an agent in the terrorist attacks.

Last month a judge warned he will strike out the police defence to the claims – the first of their kind – unless there is full disclosure by October 1.

An initial legal attempt to appeal his order was rejected earlier this week.

Following that outcome, solicitor Claire McKeegan of KRW Law, who acts for both plaintiffs, claimed there is a strategy to “subvert” the proceedings.

Both actions centre on alleged police collusion with a loyalist agent suspected of up to 15 murders.

Mr Flynn (57) is suing over murder bids allegedly carried out by an agent who operated in the city’s Mount Vernon area. In 1992 a gunman tried to shoot him after he was lured to Whiteabbey Hospital on the outskirts of the city. Five years later a second attempt was made to kill him in a failed car bomb attack.

In 2014 the PSNI admitted his misfeasance claim and accepted he should be paid damages.

But the force emphatically denies negligence or having ever employed the covert human intelligence source – identified only in the case as ‘Informant 1’. The agent is suspected of being linked to 10-15 murders and other paramilitary crimes.

Mr Flynn’s action was triggered by the findings of Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan that some Special Branch officers colluded with loyalist killers.

As part of the lawsuit, Mr Flynn’s lawyers are seeking access to PSNI documents. They argued the police admission of partial liability was a tactical move to avoid handing over all files on the informant and cover over the full extent of alleged collusion.

An affidavit filed by Mr Flynn claimed police either failed to arrest the agent for the murders and other crimes or conducted “sham” interviews, despite knowing he was a leading UVF figure.

Misleading records were deliberately compiled, while other documents and forensic exhibits were either destroyed or lost, he alleged.

Last year a High Court judge ordered the handover of 13 categories of police documents.

Counsel for the chief constable sought more time to provide discovery, stressing the material being sought covers a period of more than a decade.

It was claimed that it could take years to identify all the files, with 1,500 documents said to relate to Informant 1.

A Public Interest Immunity (PII) process alone would cost in excess of £300,000, according to a superintendent asked to assess the scale.

However, despite accepting the complexity of the discovery process, Mr Justice Stephens held that resource implications would not be to the extent suggested.

Extending time for full compliance until the autumn, the judge stressed no further period would be permitted.