British forces 'facilitated' UDA murder of Finucane

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

There was a significant doubt as to whether Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane would have been murdered by the UDA in February 1989 had it not been for the different strands of involvement by elements of the British state, a review into his death has found.

The 500-page report, by Sir Desmond da Silva QC, says that a series of positive actions by employees of the state "actively furthered and facilitated his murder" and there was a relentless effort to defeat the ends of justice in the aftermath of his killing.

"My review of the evidence relating to Patrick Finucane's case has left me in no doubt that agents of the State were involved in carrying out serious violations of human rights up to and including murder,"  it  says.

Sir Desmond said he did not believe there was an "over-arching state conspiracy" to murder Mr Finucane but that "an extraordinary state of affairs was created" in which both the British army and the RUC special branch had prior notice of a series of planned UDA assassinations, yet nothing was done to prevent the attacks.

The report says there were three UDA conspiracies to murder Mr Finucane that were known to RUC special branch and or MI5. These were in 1981, 1985 and 1988/89 and on none of these occasions was Mr Finucane warned of the threat against his life.

Speaking in the House of Commons this afternoon, British prime minister David Cameron said the "shocking levels of collusion" exposed by the report was “unacceptable” and apologised to the Finucane family: “I am deeply sorry," he said.

However, he again ruled out establishing an independent public inquiry.

Mr Finucane's widow Geraldine today dismissed the report a as “a sham... a whitewash... a confidence trick” and renewed her call for a full public inquiry into her husband’s  death. This report is not the truth,” she told a press conference in London.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny also renewed his calls for a public inquiry, while Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore told the Dáil this afternoon the Government would press the case for it at every opportunity. Sinn Féin and the SDLP also backed the calls for a full independent inquiry to be held.

Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Matt Baggott said he will discuss the report with the Police Ombudsman and the Public Prosecution Service to see if more people should be held to account for the murder.

Mr Baggott announced in Belfast that he is planning talks with Ombudsman Michael Maguire and Barra McGrory, director of the PPS. “The murder should never have happened. There was a catalogue of failure which needs to be assessed to see if people should be held accountable.”

Sir Desmond found that in December 1988 MI5 received information about a "potentially serious threat to the life" of the solicitor.

"Mr Finucane was murdered by the UDA less than two months afterwards. No steps had been taken to warn him that his life was in danger or to otherwise protect him," he said

"I believe that the responsibility for the failure to act on the December 1988 threat intelligence lies with the Security Service (MI5)," he added.

Mr Finucane (39) was murdered by loyalist gunmen who burst into his home in north Belfast on February 12th 1989 and shot him multiple times as he was having a meal with his children and wife Geraldine, who was wounded in the incident.

He came into the public eye when he acted as solicitor for Bobby Sands and handled the legal affairs of other hunger-strikers in the latter stages of their protest. He also represents the families of three men killed in the so called "shoot to kill" episode in Armagh in 1982 and represented Patrick McGeown, who was accused of helping to organise the March 1988 killing of two army corporals, when criminal charges against him are dropped.

Mr Cameron described Mr Finucane's murder as “an appalling crime”

He said the Finucane family suffered “the most grievous wrongs” and that he respected their view that the de Silva review was not the right response. But he said he disagreed with them, and said a public inquiry might not have uncovered so much information about the killing. Mr Cameron said he hoped that today’s report would contribute to moving the Northern Ireland peace process forward.

Mr Finucane's family arrived at Westminster to read the report shortly after 8am this morning.

{Prior to the released of the report, Mr Finucane's son John, who was eight when his father was murdered, said his family would read the report with an "open mind" but pointed out "our past record does not fill us with hope". But, he added, "if it is a review that puts all our questions to bed then there will be nobody happier than me to move on with our lives."

"This is something which doesn’t just affect my family. It affects a very large section of society in Ireland," he told BBC's Radio 4.

There have been a series of reports and investigations into the circumstances surrounding his death. Retired Metropolitan police chief John Stevens conducted three inquiries into his death and retired Canadian judge Peter Cory also investigated the murder.

The attack on Mr Finucane came shortly after British home office junior minister Douglas Hogg tells MPs that certain solicitors in Northern Ireland are "unduly sympathetic" to terrorist organisations, indicating he meant the IRA.

Sir Desmond said this comment was based on an RUC briefing, which the organisation expected would be put into the public domain, and that Mr Hogg was "compromised" when given the information. He was sure that Mr Hogg's comments did not incite the UDA to murder Mr Finucane. He added "however the evidence does suggest that the UDA considered the ministers comments to be significant."

"I believe that Mr Hogg's comments may have, albeit unwittingly, further increased the vulnerability of defence solicitors, including Patrick Finucane."

He added: "I am satisfied that the manner in which Mr Hogg was briefed by the RUC indicated an attitude or mindset within the RUC at the time which led them to be predisposed against solicitors representing republican paramilitaries, and against Patrick Finucane in particular."

Sir Desmond referred to the RUC special branch agent Ken Barratt, one of the gunmen who murdered Mr Finucane, and how he was recruited in October 1991 even though he had given a qualified admission to the police that he had murdered the solicitor.

"I am sure that the RUC special branch took a conscious decision to recruit Kenneth Barratt as an agent rather than seek to bring him to justice for his role in the murder of Patrick Finucane," the report says.

"That decision was taken at RUC SB superintendent level, though it is possible that knowledge of Barratt's prima-facie 'admission' and recruitment extended further up the RUC hierarchy."

Sir Desmond said he was also satisfied that a tape recording of Barratt's "admission" in October 1991 "was a deliberate act designed to thwart the RUC CID in its efforts to investigate Barratt in connection with the murder".

The report concludes that two agents who were in the pay of the state at the time were involved in the murder of Mr Finucane. These Brian Nelson and William Stobie.

Sir Desmond said he was firmly of the view that the British army's Force Research Unit was not provided with information from Nelson about the plan to murder the solicitor. He added, however, that the FRU must "bear a degree of responsibility for whatever targetting activity Nelson carried out in his dual role as a UDA intelligence officer and a FRU agent" during the period.

In relation to Stobie who was murdered by the UDA in December 2001 after his trail for the murder of Mr Finucane collapsed, Sir Desmond said he was satisfied Stobie provided the 9mm Browning Pistol that the "UDA hit team" used in the killing.

"I do not, however, believe that Stobie knew that the UDA's target was Patrick Finucane," the report says.

"The intelligence provided by William Stobie after the murder of Patrick Finucane could have led to the recovery of the gun likely to have been used in the murder and the arrest of at least one of the key UDA suspects. I am satisfied that the special branch unjustifiably withheld this critical intelligence from the RUC CID."

Sir Desmond did not believe it was "possible to establish with certainty whether officers proposed Patrick Finucane as a target to UDA members" in Castlereagh interrogation centre. "In the absence of any admissions by the individuals directly involved in the interviews it is clearly not possible to establish what happened with certainty," he said.

He did believe, however, based on circumstantial evidence that it was likely "that an RUC officer or officers" did propose Mr Finucane, along with at least one other individual as a target in Castlereagh on December 8th or 9th, 1988.

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