5 March 2009 Edition
The search for justice
THE search for justice by Northern nationalist communities continued last week with the family of Pearse Jordan calling for information to be released to enable the inquest into the killing to proceed.
Pearse Jordan, a 23-year-old IRA Volunteer, was unarmed and posed no threat when the car he was driving was rammed by undercover RUC vehicles and he was shot dead by an RUC gunman in 1992.
In 2001, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the human rights of ten dead IRA men, including Pearse Jordan, had been violated by the failure to properly investigate controversial killings by state forces.
Eight years later and the inquest into the killing is still being delayed, currently by the refusal of PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde to release information.
Speaking before a meeting with the British Secretary of State, Shaun Woodward, to urge disclosure, Hugh Jordan described the situation as “intolerable”.
“For the last 17 years we have attended over 130 of almost 200 hearings regarding an inquest. This is an intolerable situation for any family.
“We will be asking Shaun Woodward to ensure that the coroner and our lawyers receive the necessary material allowing the inquest to proceed.”
Meanwhile, witnesses appearing before the inquiry into the killing of Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill have denied withholding information.
Robert Hamill died after being brutally beaten by a sectarian mob as he walked home from a Catholic social club in 1997.
Appearing before the hearing, Victoria Clayton denied being part of “a wall of silence” operating among sections of the Protestant community in Portadown. Clayton also denied being amongst the crowd close to the attack.
Clayton has been identified by other witnesses as having wiped blood off the lip of Stacy Bridgett, one of those initially accused of involvement of the attack. But Clayton has refused to identify Bridgett as the man she assisted.
Another witness at the Hamill inquiry, Stephen Sinnamon, said he had been returning from a disco in Banbridge when he noticed the ambulance, RUC and crowds of people at the scene of the fatal attack.
A lawyer acting for the Hamill family, Barrister Barra MacGrory, accused Stephen Sinnamon of deliberately withholding information. He described Sinnamon as being “as evasive as possible” and not wanting “to say what you saw”.
When pressed about the identity of the killers, he said he couldn’t remember. Asked if he felt under pressure not to identify the killers, Sinnamon said there was nothing he could tell.
Meanwhile, at the Rosemary Nelson Inquiry, a senior British policeman, Colin Port, admitted he had to be ordered to head the investigation into the Lurgan lawyer’s murder because “no one else would do it”.
The family of Joe Campbell have campaigned for over 30 years to have allegations of collusion in the murder investigated fully.
Joe Campbell, a Catholic member of the RUC in Cushendall, was shot dead in February 1977.
From the outset, the Campbell family suspected Joe had been killed by another known RUC officer. Last week, the Ombudsman announced a new investigation into the murder following new leads pointing to RUC collusion.
Campbell was killed by a single high-velocity shot as he closed the local RUC station in the predominantly Catholic village of Cushendall where he was stationed.
Shortly before his killing, Campbell had told RUC Special Branch in Ballymena that he believed he was in danger of being killed by a fellow officer.
Campbell had reported the officer, who he believed to have been involved in a series of robberies in Cushendall which he later blamed on the IRA.
The three officers in which Campbell confided, shared Campbell’s suspicions and the information was passed to the then head of Special Branch, Mick Slevin, in Belfast.
It has emerged that a senior RUC officer warned the detective, suspected by Campbell to be threatening his life, that he had been mentioned in these Special Branch reports.
The reports (SB50 forms) recording the suspicions were lodged in a safe in the office of then RUC Chief Constable Kenneth Newman, later head of the London Metropolitan Police. Both Slevin and Newman are now dead but others involved in the case have been identified.
HIGH COURT FAILURE
Meanwhile, the failure of Belfast High Court to impose sanctions appropriate to the serious issue of collusion has prompted widespread anger within the Northern nationalist community.
Those whose names and details appeared on a loyalist death list have expressed outrage at the judiciary’s failure to take the issue of collusion seriously.
Despite the fact that hundreds of nationalists have been killed and injured as a result of collusion, the judiciary appear remarkably reluctant to take this into account when imposing sentences.
Two men found guilty of supplying the personal details of more than 100 Catholics to the UVF walked free after presiding Judge McLaughlin gave PSNI data processing worker Aaron Hill a suspended sentence and his accomplice, Darren Richardson, a sentence equivalent to time served on remand.
Richardson colluded with Hill, who used his access to a PSNI computer to download the personal details of Catholics in the mid-Ulster area.
The details of more than a hundred Catholics appeared on lists in the possession of a leading loyalist with UVF connections. Both men were loyalist band members. It is unclear why a loyalist band member was deemed appropriate to handle sensitive information by the PSNI.
Hill and Richardson, a former manager at Wrightbus in Ballymena both pleaded guilty to a string of loyalist paramilitary-related offences including passing “information likely to be of use to terrorists”.
Hill also pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office. Richardson, who already has a previous conviction for violence, also pleaded guilty to possessing 40 rounds of 9mm ammunition which were discovered in his desk drawer at his Ballymena workplace.
Despite the now well documented history of collusion between state and pro state forces, presiding judge McLaughlin appears to have regarded the actions of Hill and Richardson as a relatively minor misdemeanour.
Commenting on the outcome, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said there is “deep unease at the light sentences” amongst the nationalist community.
“There are serious questions raised by the case, particularly for the PSNI and the procedures they have in place for preventing people who had well-known loyalist connections from accessing this information,” said McGuinness.