Glenanne Gang collusion review adjourned

May 11, 2015

The judicial review proceedings of investigations into atrocities committed by the loyalist Glenanne gang in the 1970s has been adjourned until next month.

The legal challenge has been brought against the PSNI chief by the families of more than 100 murder victims from the 1970s over an alleged failure to complete a comprehensive report on the sectarian campaign by the loyalist gang in Mid Ulster and Irish border areas throughout the 1970s. It centres on allegations that members of the security forces colluded with loyalists.

Relatives of victims claim the authorities knew about the activities of an Ulster Volunteer Force gang based at a farm in Glenanne, south Armagh and that the gang contained members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Ulster Defence Regiment.

On day two of the legal challenge last Friday the High Court in Belfast was told that investigative reviews of atrocities committed by the notorious loyalist gang had yielded no new leads or evidence of state collusion.

Up to 120 murders in nearly 90 incidents are under scrutiny, including atrocities such as the murder of the three Reavey brothers at their home in Whitecross in 1976 and the Miami Showband Massacre in 1975, where three members of the popular group were taken from their tour bus by men dressed in British Army uniforms and shot dead on a country road in Banbridge.  The Step Inn pub bombing in Keady a year later, which claimed the lives of two Catholics is also under close examination.

A lawyer for the Chief Constable told Belfast High Court on Friday that the independent Historical Enquiries Team (HET) had carried out an “exhaustive” examination of 26 cases.

The previous day families of the murder victims heard that a draft report into collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and security force members in the murders was just 80% complete before being shelved. Families are seeking a court order to ensure the inquiries are finished and the findings made public.

The judicial review proceedings have been brought in the name of a brother of schoolboy victim, Patrick Barnard. The 13 year old was one of four people who died in a bomb at the HIllcrest Bar in Dungannon on St. Patrick’s Day 1976.

With the HET now effectively shut down, his brother, Edward Barnard, wants a judge to compel police to complete the full investigation and publish the findings.

A barrister for the chief constable, argued that “detailed and searching” scrutiny of the Hillcrest Bar killings and other cases had been carried out and that there was “no further evidential opportunities to be examined and no evidence of collusion.”

The lawyer added that “fragments” of review summary reports from 14 different incidents that feature in the challenge did not reveal the full picture and that only one of them resulted in a referral being made to the Police Ombudsman’s Office.

He argued that the draft report added “no value” and said he was concerned that the relatives are “left with the impression that there’s some panacea to be found in the entire analysis by the HET.”

“The analysis has been done by the HET, and what these reports will show is that in each of these cases there’s no further evidential opportunities.”

He added: “We do question the utility of this litigation, and question the utility of asking your Lordship to make an order directing the chief constable operationally to conduct a task he has considered will be of no investigative value whatsoever.”

The case has been adjourned until next month.