Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Police in the north of Ireland fail to act on key Stevens recommendation

Barry McCaffrey:

Police have failed to set up a special unit to investigate allegations of security force collusion three years after it was first recommended by Lord Stevens.

On April 18 2003 Britain's then most senior police officer revealed that he had found evidence that members of the security forces colluded in the murders of solicitor Pat Finucane and Protestant teenager Adam Lambert in 1989.

In a report delivered to Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde three years ago this week Lord Stevens called for the establishment of a special unit to investigate the allegations.

"An internal investigation department should be established by the PSNI in order that any allegations or suspicions of collusion and corruption can be tackled proactively as well as reactively," Lord Stevens said.

However, the PSNI does not appear to have taken any action.

A police spokesman said allegations of security force collusion were dealt with by its Internal Investigations Branch (IIB).

Concerns have been raised that IIB was established in 2001, two years before Lord Stevens's call for a special collusion investigation team.

The investigation of collusion is not mentioned anywhere in the IIB's terms of reference found on the PSNI's website.

Jane Winter of the British Irish Rights Watch group said she was shocked and concerned that the PSNI did not appear to have acted on one of the key recommendation made by Lord Stevens.

"The PSNI is saying that the IIB is sufficient to investigate collusion," she said.

"But if Stevens had thought IIB was sufficient he would not have called for the establishment of a special unit to investigate collusion in April 2003.

"Despite a written request the PSNI has been unable to tell us if it has such a unit. If it does exist no-one seems to know about it."

Mrs Winter said the need for a 'collusion' unit was reinforced by ongoing cases involving allegations that police officers protected loyalist paramilitaries from prosecution.

"One only has to look at the case of Raymond McCord jnr and the allegations that Special Branch officers protected UVF members from prosecution for more than a decade," she said.

"The McCord and Finucane murders are just two cases in which allegations of collusion exist. There are many more.

"What astounds me is that the PSNI does not appear to have any procedures in place to investigate allegations that its members are involved in collusion."

Meanwhile, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) says it has not taken any decision on whether 20 security force members, allegedly involved in collusion, should stand trial.

In April 2003 Lord Stevens sent files on 20 soldiers and policemen to the PPS for alleged involvement with loyalist paramilitaries.

A PPS spokesman said the files were still "under review".

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