Raymond McCord to challenge the decision not to charge former police officers implicated in killing his son

Posted By: September 10, 2018

Alan Erwin. Belfast Telegraph. Belfast. Monday, September 19, 2018

The father of a loyalist paramilitary murder victim is to pursue legal action over the decision not to bring charges against former police officers implicated in the killing.

Raymond McCord’s lawyers are pressing ahead with a High Court challenge after rejecting a Public Prosecution Service (PPS) offer to have a senior barrister carry out a further evaluation.

A judge today listed his case for a hearing in November.

Mr. McCord’s 22-year-old son, Raymond McCord Jnr, was beaten to death before his body was dumped in a quarry on the northern outskirts of the city in November 1997.

The killing was at the center of an explosive report by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan which found collusion between a north Belfast UVF gang and their Special Branch handlers.

Earlier this year Gary Haggarty, a former commander of the terror unit-turned supergrass, was jailed after confessing to hundreds of paramilitary offenses.

His catalog of crime extended over 16 years, from 1991 to 2007, and included five murders – but not that of Mr. McCord Jnr.

The 46-year-old pleaded guilty as part of a controversial state deal that offered a reduced sentence in return for providing evidence on other terror suspects.

As a consequence, his prison term was slashed from 35 years to six-and-a-half years due to the assistance provided to police.

Under the terms of the agreement, he supplied information on scores of loyalist killings and attempted murders.

Despite Haggarty implicating 16 people in serious crime, only one man currently faces prosecution for murder using his evidence.

Former Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory announced last year that his claims alone were insufficient to prove allegations made against the other suspects.

Mr. McCord then issued judicial review proceedings against the PPS for failing to review the decision not to bring charges against former police officers implicated in the alleged failure to prevent his son’s murder.

His lawyers claimed the position was unlawful, unfair and “deprecated” the weight which could be given to Haggarty’s evidence and his general credibility.

A potential resolution to the litigation emerged in April when the PPS confirmed that a review of the decision not to prosecute the former police officers was to be carried out.

But Mr. McCord’s legal team have rejected the move, claiming the same senior counsel who advised on decisions not to prosecute in another  Haggarty-related case would be involved in the review.

His solicitor, Ciaran O’Hare of McIvor Farrell law firm, said: “We contend that the review that has been offered by the PPS falls manifestly short of the key principles of transparency, freshness, and independence from the original decision maker.

“In the absence of fresh material, it would be very difficult to see why the same senior counsel would give different advice to those already given and relied upon before in this case.”