By Jack Holland
The Stevens inquiry into the murder of human rights lawyer Patrick Finucane will not recommend criminal proceedings be brought against any police officers, after a long investigation into allegations that they colluded with loyalist killers, it has been learned from a reliable source.
The inquiry, which is the third by Sir John Stevens into the murder and allegations of collusion surrounding it, is expected to produce a report to this effect over the next six to eight weeks. It will instead recommend a revamping of procedures for the handling of information received by the police Special Branch from informers in the paramilitary organizations.
“The report will make recommendations about procedures to rectify problems so ensure they do not reoccur,” said the source. “But there has been no evidence to warrant criminal charges. There will be no fall guy.”
It is the police’s handling of sensitive information from human sources that has been at the heart of the controversy, with human rights organizations, lawyers and Finucane family members demanding a public inquiry into allegations of links between loyalist death squads and the Special Branch. The investigation, which lasted almost three years and looked at allegations involving mainly the Special Branch and the Ulster Defense Association, has apparently found no evidence that any police officer shared information with a terrorists, which is a criminal offense.
The UDA, using the pseudonym Ulster Freedom Fighters, claimed responsibility for the February 1989 shooting, which remains one of the most controversial in the history of the Northern Ireland conflict. In 1999, William Stobie was arrested as a result of the third Stevens inquiry. Stobie at the time of the murder was quartermaster for the Shankill Road UDA’s C Company and also a Special Branch informer. Two units of C Company were responsible for the killing. Stobie was acquitted late last year after the chief witness against him refused to testify. He himself was murdered a few weeks later by the UDA. Stobie remains the only person prosecuted as the result of the latest investigation, which was run on a day-to-day basis by Hugh Orde, recently named as chief constable for the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
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A source familiar with Irish government thinking said that “the Finucane case has in a sense moved beyond prosecutions.”
“It is an admission of the failure of the justice system and underlines the need for a public inquiry,” the source said.
Just last week, the British and Irish governments named former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Peter Corey to head a review of the Finucane case, along with five other controversial murders, with a view to establishing which, if any, warrants a public inquiry. The Stevens’ findings will undoubtedly increase pressure from the nationalist community for a public inquiry.