Damages to be paid to victims’ families over Loughinsland atrocity

Police Ombudsman’s Office in NI apologises for ‘failings’ in first report into 1994 murders

Former police ombudsman Al Hutchinson in 2007:  Proceedings centred on his conclusions there was insufficient evidence of collusion between RUC officers and the loyalist paramilitary killers. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Former police ombudsman Al Hutchinson in 2007: Proceedings centred on his conclusions there was insufficient evidence of collusion between RUC officers and the loyalist paramilitary killers. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Relatives of victims of the Loughinsland atrocity are to receive damages as part of a settlement reached in their legal action against the Police Ombudsman’s Office in Northern Ireland.

The watchdog has also issued an apology to those bereaved and injured for “failings” in its first report into the sectarian murder of six Catholic men in June 1994.

Proceedings centred on former ombudsman Al Hutchinson’s conclusions that there was insufficient evidence of collusion between RUC officers and the loyalist paramilitary killers. Relatives of the Loughinisland victims sued the office over the hurt and upset caused by the findings he reached in 2011.

Their civil action was settled at the High Court in Belfast on Friday, with confirmation that undisclosed damages are to be paid out.

Following the resolution, a spokesman for the ombudsman said: “The office apologises to victims and their families for its failings at that time.”

Men killed

UVF gunmen carried out the massacre at the Heights Bar in Loughinisland, Co Down, as customers watched a World Cup football match. The men killed were: Adrian Rogan (34), Malcolm Jenkinson (53), Barney Green (87), Daniel McCreanor (59), Patrick O’Hare (35) and Eamon Byrne (39). Five others were wounded in the attack.

In 2006, the bereaved families and survivors lodged a complaint with the ombudsman, alleging significant failures in the police investigation and collusion between RUC officers and the killers. Among their concerns was the getaway car used by the terrorists being destroyed 10 months after the shootings and not retained for evidential purposes.

Hutchinson report

In 2011, Mr Hutchinson, the ombudsman at the time, published a report which was highly critical of aspects of the police investigation. However, he concluded there was not enough evidence to support the families’ collusion claims. That report was later quashed by the high court, resulting in a fresh investigation and different findings reached by the current ombudsman in 2016.

According to Dr Michael Maguire, collusion between some officers and the loyalists was a significant feature in the murders. The families’ lawsuit against the ombudsman’s office related to the earlier Hutchinson report.

Their solicitor, Niall Murphy of KRW Law, identified an alleged failure to discharge the state’s human rights obligations as the reason for the legal action. Outside court he said: “The families were hurt and frustrated by the 2011 report published by Al Hutchinson. They consider that the settlement of these proceedings is recognition of the harm caused in 2011.”