28 October 1999 Edition

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`Outrageous' remarks by Hamill appeal case judge

By Laura Friel

COMMENTS by presiding Judge Campbell during an appeal hearing in relation to the killing of Portadown Catholic Robert Hamill have been described by local Sinn Féin Assembly member Dara O'Hagan as ``outrageous''.

The comments - repeating the RUC version defending their inaction as Hamill was kicked to death yards from an armed mobile patrol - were made as Judge Campbell rejected an appeal by loyalist Paul Hobson against his sentence.

Hobson was one of six loyalists charged in connection with the Hamill murder. Charges against five of the six were later dropped. Initially charged with murder, Paul Hobson was convicted of disorderly behaviour and sentenced to four years' imprisonment. He was released within months of his conviction.

``Judge Campbell's description of the events which led to Robert Hamill's death were more in line with the RUC's version of the event than the truth of what happened,'' said O'Hagan.

The judge said RUC officers were present at what was a potential trouble spot. The two sections of the community crossed each other's paths on their way home from their respective places of entertainment at the weekend.

The judge then went on to claim that someone had tried to pull one of the RUC officers out of the driver's seat, shouting, `You sat there, watching that happening, and you did nothing!' Judge Campbell said the RUC officer, Constable Neill, did not know what the person was talking about but then noticed two groups of about 40 loyalists and about 10 nationalists shouting at each other. Fights broke out and the RUC tried to break them up, said the judge.

``Judge Campbell's characterisation of the circumstances surrounding Robert Hamill's murder colludes in the `rival gangs' myth peddled by the RUC at the time,'' said O'Hagan. ``Robert Hamill was killed by a loyalist mob who had gathered with murderous intent on a corner where they anticipated encountering Catholics leaving St Patrick's Hall.

``There wasn't two groups, only four young friends walking home, a loyalist mob intent on violence, and a sectarian police force prepared to turn a blind eye. Add to that a legal profession willing to fudge the issues and it is clear there is still no justice for Robert Hamill and the grieving family he left behind.''

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