Omagh car bombing: Families sue PSNI chief constable 19 years on

Relatives of the Omagh car bomb victims are mounting a legal challenge to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for “investigative failings” they believe allowed the killers to escape justice.

Aug 10, 2017

Relatives of the Omagh car bomb victims are mounting a legal challenge to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for “investigative failings” they believe allowed the killers to escape justice. Bereaved families have issued a writ against PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton seeking damages and a declaration that their human rights have been breached. It is the latest twist in their two-decade quest for “justice and answers” – and comes ahead of next week`s 19th anniversary of the Real IRA outrage that claimed the lives of 29 people. The Omagh bombing inflicted the greatest loss of life of any terror atrocity in the history of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The families are pursuing judicial review proceedings against the Government`s decision not to hold a public inquiry into claims the attack could have been prevented if it had not been for a series of intelligence failings. The writ against Mr Hamilton focuses on what happened after the bomb detonated on August 15, 1998, and why no one has been successfully convicted in a criminal court. The relatives have already successfully sued four republicans in a landmark civil trial that found they were responsible for the bombing. The latest court action has been issued against Mr Hamilton because he has legal responsibility for the actions of both his force and its predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). The action has been issued in the name of Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aiden died in the bomb blast. He said: “Here we are 19 years on and the criminals responsible for this are still walking the streets – there has been absolutely no punitive measures taken against any of them.” Mr Gallagher`s name on the writ represents bereaved families belonging to the Omagh Support and Self Help Group. It cites the findings of official inquiries and court proceedings that identified multiple failures in how the bombing was investigated. These include: • A 2001 report by the first Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI), Baroness O`Loan, who found many evidential opportunities were missed and expressed concern that warnings of a likely attack passed to the RUC by informants were not acted upon; • Acquitting south Armagh electrician Sean Hoey of the Omagh murders in 2007, trial judge Mr Justice Weir heavily criticised the way forensic evidence had been dealt with; • A 2014 report by current PONI Dr Michael Maguire highlighted inexplicable delays in arresting known suspects in the days after the attack. He also found that key intelligence was not disseminated from RUC Special Branch to detectives on the ground; and • Fatal flaws in state evidence exposed when the prosecution of South Armagh bricklayer Seamus Daly for the Omagh murders was dropped before it reached trial last year. Relatives` solicitor John Fox explained the basis of the latest legal bid. He said: “A particular concern is the delays in arresting known suspects by the police and the families have tried to get answers from the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service and have yet to get any answers to the questions that remain unanswered. “And that is what they are now bringing before the court – an action against the chief constable of the PSNI to get answers in relation to how the police investigation was handled.” In response to the sending of the writ, a PSNI spokesperson said: “Once received, we will take time to consider the contents and respond in due course.” Relatives will gather at a memorial garden in Omagh on Sunday (August 13) for their annual service of remembrance ahead of next Tuesday`s anniversary.

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