Police inaction in establishing whether officers involved in the fatal shooting of a Bleary man ever had roles in other lethal force incidents has been branded completely unsatisfactory.
A lawyer for the family of Neil McConville (21) who was shot dead after a police chase near Lisburn in April 2003, have accused the PSNI of “sitting on their hands” in the three months since it received a legal request to check the officers’ service records.
Karen Quinlivan QC reacted angrily after a lawyer for the police told a preliminary inquest hearing at Belfast coroner’s court it could be another three months before the exercise was completed. “That’s completely unsatisfactory and the police service know it,” she said.
Mr McConville was the first person killed by the police since the PSNI replaced the RUC in 2001. An investigation by then police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan found that the officer who fired the fatal shots had been justified, but other elements of the operation, in particular its management, were heavily criticised.
A previous hearing was told that two senior officers involved in directing the PSNI operation also had roles in controversial security force killings during the Troubles - incidents the family’s legal team argue are relevant.
A solicitor for the PSNI, Ken Boyd, said each officer, some of whom have now retired, would have to be interviewed individually about their past involvement in other lethal force operations. “At this stage I can’t say how long it would take. A number of officers have retired and some have retired out of the jurisdiction.”
Ms Quinlivan said: “They have had it (request from solicitors) from September 23 and had taken no issue with it. But they just sat and waited and now they’re saying ‘we’ll guess, just pluck a figure out of the air’? There is no justification that since September 23 they have sat on their hands and taken no steps.” Coroner Ms Suzanne Anderson said she wanted a written indication by the end of the week on what the timetable for interviewing the officers would be.