PSNI chief ordered to appoint independent probe into Glenanne Gang killings

Northern Ireland’s chief constable has been ordered to conduct an independent probe into alleged state collusion with a notorious loyalist murder gang.

At the Court of Appeal in Belfast, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan rejected an appeal by former Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief Sir George Hamilton against a 2017 judgment that the police’s failure to conduct an overarching examination of state collusion with the Glenanne Gang was inconsistent with its human rights obligations.

The gang was a unit of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) that counted rogue security force personnel among its members.

Operating mostly in Tyrone and Armagh, the gang has been blamed for around 130 sectarian murders during the 1970s and 1980s.

There was standing room only in court on Friday morning as families of those killed filled the public gallery and lined the aisles to hear Sir Declan deliver the response to the appeal.

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Outside the court, supporters, including other bereaved families such as those who lost loved ones in disputed shootings at Ballymurphy in 1971, held banners in solidarity.

Sir Declan said the court would not direct Chief Constable Simon Byrne on how the independent officers should proceed but he warned that if there are any unduly delays in appointing the officers, he would be at risk of further proceedings challenging such a failure.

The independent Historic Enquiries Team (HET) had partially completed a probe into the activities of the Glenanne Gang before its work was halted by PSNI commanders.

The HET had examined individual murders committed by the gang but had not undertaken an overarching thematic review of the collusion allegations.

The PSNI’s decision to stop the HET review was challenged by way of judicial review by the family of one of the gang’s victims.

The judicial review was taken by the family of Patrick Barnard, who was killed in a bomb blast in Dungannon in 1976.