EXCLUSIVE: The unredacted Police Ombudsman witness statement relating to the theft of confidential Loughinisland material
By Jamie Bryson– Editor@UnionistVoice.com
The Police Ombudsman has publicly denied that there was any complaint of theft in relation to the confidential Loughinisland material, however Unionist Voice can today publish a full copy of the written statement (below) by the Ombudsman’s Director of Investigations, Paul Holmes. The statement is marked ‘Official-Sensitive’.
Unionist Voice has blanked the personal signature of Paul Holmes.
In his witness statement the then Director of Historical Investigations reveals he informed senior police officers on 4 October 2017 of the disclosure of the material marked ‘Secret’. It was after this that Holmes, in his own witness statement, says “a criminal investigation was commissioned with the objective of establishing the means by which the film’s production team secured access to the material, whether by theft or other unauthorised disclosure.”
Nationalist activists and legal representatives for journalists Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney consistently claimed, and it was reported by several media outlets, that there had been no complaint of a theft or unauthorised disclosure.
This has been the subject of a very public dispute between Durham Constabulary, the PSNI and Police Ombudsman’s office.
It is therefore clearly public interest journalism for Unionist Voice to publish the exclusive copy of the witness statement that was anonymously posted through this journalist’s door.
In relation to the stolen Loughinisland documents, a senior PONI source told us “there was clearly a theft yet due to his (Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire) fascination with maintaining his close relationship with at least one particular solicitor involved in legacy issues, he tried to play it down and then disgracefully throw Paul (Holmes) under the bus.”
In another extraordinary twist the Ombudsman’s Director of Historical Investigations within his witness statement refers to the office’s involvement in the documentary “collaboration”. Our source said this description made many “extremely uneasy” as it had “called into question the impartiality of the Police Ombudsman’s office”.
The witness statement also goes on to confirm that the Police Ombudsman’s office had also engaged with the ‘No Stone Unturned’ filmmakers both “prior to, and following publication of the public statement”.
This astonishing revelation confirms that the Police Ombudsman’s office, whilst supposedly conducting an impartial investigation into the brutal and unjustifiable murders carried out at the Heights Bar in 1994, had been collaborating with journalists making a documentary on behalf of the complainants even prior to the publication of the report.
The Police Ombudsman source also told us that the Dr Maguire had been “uninterested” in pursuing the theft of other confidential material which had been presented by KRW Law during a recent High Court case. In a scathing judgement KRW Law were criticised for their handling of the material. The Belfast law firm, who also acted for Trevor Birney, claimed they had been given the documentation by another client who they declined to name.
KRW Law solicitor Niall Murphy participated in the now discredited ‘No Stone Unturned’ documentary and acts for the Loughinisland families. Mr Murphy is also a business partner of Trevor Birney, acting as a director for a sister company of Fine Point films, James Street Films.
Despite KRW Law being involved in both the disclosure of the stolen PONI documents in the Morley case and entwined with No Stone Unturned and the journalists who claim to have been ‘posted’ the stolen documents, there is no suggestion that this is anything more than a remarkable coincidence.
The Police Service for Northern Ireland and Police Ombudsman have both provided with an opportunity to comment and served with notice of this public interest publication.
After Mr Birney and Mr McCaffrey published the confidential Loughinisland report and were later arrested in connection with this, the National Union of Journalists and a broad coalition of politicians and members of the professional class and civic society stood firmly in defence of the rights of the two journalists to protect their sources. Therefore, it is self-evident that the same coalition of press freedom campaigners would be fully in support of Unionist Voice’s public interest journalism in publishing the content of this witness statement.
Note* Any reporting of this story should attribute the original publication of this material to UnionistVoice.com