Challenge to appointment by Karen Bradley of new Police Ombudsman

KRW Law LLP act for the daughter of an individual who was severely injured in the shooting at the Ormeau Road Bookmakers on 5th February 1992. Five people died as a result of the shooting. The Applicant’s father was left with severe and life-changing injuries for the remainder of his life.


Together with the other victims of this attack, she has been waiting a number of years for the publication of the Police Ombudsman report into this shooting.


On 14th February 2019 PONI published a statement revealing that material of relevance to the Ormeau Road Bookmakers attack was not previously disclosed by the PSNI to PONI as it ought to have been. This statement makes clear that:


(i) “Significant, sensitive material, some of which relates to covert policing” which is held by the Police and is relevant to the PONI investigation into the attack on the Ormeau Road Bookies, was not disclosed;

(ii) The additional material was such that PONI have opened “new lines of enquiry”

(iii) The justification provided for this failure is “a combination of human error arising from a lack of knowledge and experience and the complex challenges associated with voluminous material (some 44 million pieces of paper and microfilm records) that is stored in various places and on a range of media and on archaic IT systems”


The appointment of the new Police Ombudsman is therefore a matter of extreme importance to her. She is therefore concerned at the Secretary of State’s involvement in the appointment process.


A key reason for that concern relates to the comments of the Secretary of State in relation to the investigation and prosecution of members of the security forces for offences in relation to the Troubles. That concern is reinforced when it is considered that the Secretary of State was appointed by a Prime Minister who has herself made concerning and inappropriate comments on this issue which are not supported by the facts, and serve to undermine the rule of law.


The evidence suggests:


1. Members of the murder gang were working as state agents whilst being active members of the loyalist paramilitary gang;


2. The weapons used in the shooting including a Browning handgun and VZ58 rifle, were provided to the murder gang as a result of deliberate actions and/or culpable omissions of the security forces and security services.


In that context, the comments of the Secretary of State, and indeed the Prime Minister, that tend to suggest that the security forces should not be investigated for their criminal conduct during the Troubles, or that they could not have committed a crime as they were merely following orders, gives a clear appearance of bias.


“As a result the Secretary of State should not have been involved in the decision-making process for the appointment of a new Police Ombudsman.”


“A further element of concern at the involvement of the Secretary of State in this decision-making process is that she is a member of a minority Government that exists and survives only due to the continued support of the Democratic Unionist Party. That in itself ensures that any decision she makes in relation to legacy issues generally and on the appointment of the Police Ombudsman in particular cannot be seen as having the requisite appearance of independence with respect to the community divide in this jurisdiction.”

Niall Murphy