Judgement reserved in police chief’s Glenanne Gang appeal

April 16, 2018

Senior judges presiding over an appeal brought by NI Chief Constable challenging an ‘Order of Mandamus’ to complete an investigation into suspected state collusion in the murders carried out by the notorious Glenanne Gang in the 1970’s have reserved judgement in order to assess all legal arguments. 

In November last year, Mr Justice Treacy issued the High Court ruling compelling the police to complete the probe into the loyalist unit which was responsible for up to 120 murders in nearly 90 incidents in the Mid Ulster and Irish border areas.  The gang were behind the murders of the Reavey brothers in Whitecross in January 1976 and the bombing of Donnelly’s Bar in Silverbridge which killed three people, one of which was a 14 year old boy. It has also been linked to the murder of 33 people, including a pregnant woman, in the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

The murder gang based at a farm in Glenanne,  allegedly contained members of the RUC and the UDR.  

Justice Treacy’s verdict was reached in a legal challenge brought by the brother of 13 year old Patrick Barnard, who was among four people killed in a no-warning St Patrick’s Day bombing at the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon in March, 1976.  Dungannon UVF member Garnet James Busby was convicted in 1981, after admitting his role in the attack.

Challenging the High Court ruling during last week’s appeal, counsel for the Chief Constable insisted the Hillcrest investigation had met the “gold standard” of human rights obligations by securing a conviction and argued that the HET review into the bombing had not identified any collusion with the killers.  Tony McGleenan QC also underlined that the appeal had been brought to  ensuring clarity over important points of law and said he recognised that it was “vexing for the next of kin of the deceased to be involved in protracted litigation of this type.”

Mr Barnard’s lawyers told The Court of Appeal that a number of promises meant there was a compelling case for producing an overarching report.  According to their case, off-duty police officers and soldiers were connected by weapons to the “extraordinary pattern” of killings by the Glenanne Gang, with members of the security forces involved in a “state practice” of murder.

Lord Justice Stephens and Mrs Justice Keegan, led by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, confirmed on Friday that they will now take time to examine submissions before delivering their verdict.