The Ulster Unionist Party has described today’s court ruling regarding the Loughinisland report as a further blow to the credibility of the Police Ombudsman’s office.
Ulster Unionist Policing Spokesperson, Alan Chambers MLA, said:
“Today the Police Ombudsman’s office agreed to amend its highly controversial June 2016 report, which found that there was collusion between the RUC and the UVF terrorists who murdered six innocent men as they watched a World Cup match on tv in 1994.
“As a result all references to a former police officer criticised in the report will now be removed. Ronnie Hawthorne was an RUC commander in Downpatrick at the time of the killings and a judge has now said he had been fully vindicated and should not have had to take legal action.
“A number of paragraphs in the report have now been amended to remove criticism of him including findings that collusion involved 'catastrophic failures in the police investigation' of the attack and 'the destruction of exhibits and documents'.
“The judge described the Ombudsman’s actions in relation to Mr Hawthorne as “surrender" and said that the Ombudsman's office should pay all of his legal costs.”
Ulster Unionist Justice Spokesperson, Doug Beattie MC MLA, said:
"The judge today was clearly less than impressed at the conduct of the Ombudsman’s office in this case, finding the Police Ombudsman in breach of the court's order which he described as ‘an entirely unsatisfactory state of affairs’ and that ‘the court has been treated with disrespect.’
"This is a further blow to the credibility of the office and the quality of its work.
“I have repeatedly highlighted the problems that have arisen due to the casual use of terms such as collusion, whereby the definition has been stretched so wide on occasion as to render it almost meaningless while at the same time having a serious detrimental impact on the likes of the PSNI and RUC, as in this case.
“I note that the Ombudsman is still challenging the findings of Mr Justice McCloskey who last year ruled that the ombudsman did not have the legal power to reach a determination of collusion. I await the outcome of that ruling with great interest.”