Friday 24 November 2017

Relatives of Omagh bomb victims to sue police chief

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David Young

Relatives of Omagh bomb victims are to sue Northern Ireland's police chief for investigative failings they believe let the killers escape justice.

Ahead of next week's 19th anniversary of the Real IRA outrage that claimed the lives of 29 people, bereaved families have issued a writ against Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) chief constable George Hamilton seeking damages and a declaration their human rights have been breached.

It is the latest legal twist in their two-decade quest for justice and answers.

The families are pursuing judicial review proceedings against the UK 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, 19 years on, 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 service and its predecessor, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son Aidan died in the bombing, said the families needed answers.

"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," he said.

"We can't walk away and say 'it's just one of those things'."

Stanley McComb, whose wife Ann was killed, said: "It does hurt you, you learn to live with it, but that's what drives me on. Why should people get away with something like that?"

The action is issued in Mr Gallagher's name on behalf of bereaved families belonging to the Omagh Support and Self Help Group.

It cites the damning findings of official inquiries and court proceedings that identified multiple failures in how police investigated the bombing.

The relatives' solicitor, John Fox, explained the basis of the latest legal bid.

"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," he said.

"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 spokeswoman said: "Once received, we will take time to consider the contents and respond in due course."

Irish Independent

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