Thomas McTasney, the brother of one of the victims of the Mount Vernon UVF is seeking leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision of the Chief Constable of the PSNI to withdraw resources from the investigation into Gary Haggarty’s criminality and the failure on the part of the Department of Justice to properly resource the investigation.
The applicant’s brother Peter was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries on 24th February 1991. He was a voluntary worker and was aged 26. He was shot by the UVF in the living room of his home. His three-year-old niece Leanette McTasney was injured in the attack. Two men, one with a sledgehammer, shot him through the window before entering the house and shooting him again as he lay on the floor.
There have been consistent and deeply held concerns about security force collusion in this and related murders. These were confirmed in the Police Ombudsman report of January 2007
Mr Gary Haggarty is widely known as a senior loyalist paramilitary. He was a UVF battalion commander in north Belfast and east Antrim. On the admissions he has made to police, he has been charged with over 200 offences, including a number of murders. He has been implicated in the murder of the Applicant’s brother. He has been engaging with police under a SOCPA agreement since 2009. It is understood that he has made allegations of serious criminal activity against his former police handlers, as well as members of the UVF.
There have also been concerns in respect of the independence of the PSNI investigating matters which involve criticism of the RUC. Senior PSNI officers, for example, Former Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and Deputy Chief constable Drew Harris, are recorded at a series of Legacy Information Seminars as indicating that there is a commonality of interest with the ‘old RUC’ and that they are determined to play their part in the defence of the RUC.
In or around 2nd March 2015 the applicant became aware of the fact that the PSNI were not retaining the only four full-time investigators involved in the investigation into the criminality of Gary Haggarty. He is deeply concerned at a decision by the PSNI to remove the only four people working full time on the Haggarty case, Codenamed Operation Stafford, which is essentially the successor to the Operation Ballast investigation. The decision to remove these investigators has been criticised by respected and informed commentators such as former Police Ombudsman, Dame Nuala O’Loan who was ‘astonished’ by the decision when interviewed in the recent Spotlight programme.
Commenting on the decision to remove these investigators from the case, Mr Ó Muirigh stated:
‘I consider that the only sensible conclusion is that this represents a further stalling tactic which chimes in with the historic approach to these cases of the police as set out in the Operation Ballast report, and indeed with the views expressed more recently by Senior Police that the RUC will be protected.
All of this is exacerbated by the fact that we are aware that the PSNI have returned £14,000,000 of unspent funds back to central funds.
The PSNI make the point that the ‘resources available to the investigation’ ‘are determined by the resources allocated to the PSNI.’ And that the ‘budgetary difficulties facing the PSNI are well documented.’ This does not address the fact that the only full-time investigators were released when the Operation is under criticism for taking too long. They accept that it was’ not ideal’ that the investigators left, yet the PSNI returned £14m of their budget unspent.’
Mr Ó Muirigh added;
‘We are also asking the Court to find that the authorities responsible for making funding available for investigations like this should ensure that the PSNI do not have to release key staff at critical times in the investigation.’
The Applicant seeks the following relief:
- Order of Certiorari to quash the decision of the PSNI to remove the only full time investigators at a critical time of the investigation;
- Order of mandamus directing the Department of Justice to make adequate funding available so that key personnel do not have to be removed from the investigation;
- A Declaration that the PSNI Respondent has unlawfully removed the four investigators;
- A Declaration that the Department of Justice has not made adequate funding available to the PSNI in order that it can discharge its function;
- A Declaration that the decision represents a breach of Article 2 ECHR;
- An Order of Mandamus compelling the PSNI to reinstate the investigators;
- Such further and other relief as the Court may deem appropriate;