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Inquiry demanded in beating death of man

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader

BELFAST — There are calls for a full public inquiry into the death of Robert Hamill, a Portadown Catholic, after the Northern Ireland director of public prosecutions ruled there would be no prosecutions of RUC officers linked to the killing.

Hamill, a father of three young children, died in May 1997, 12 days after a brutal loyalist beating in the center of Portadown. Eyewitnesses said the mob jumped up and down on his head shouting, "Die, you Fenian bastard."

Others in the dead man’s company claim that four armed RUC officers in a nearby land rover refused to come to his assistance, despite repeated pleas for them to do so.

Hamill was the victim of an apparently unprovoked sectarian assault as he made his way home after a night out in Portadown. Six men were charged with murder, but only one was convicted, and then only of causing an affray, not murder.

The Hamill family are taking a civil action against the RUC, but both the SDLP and Sinn Fein want a full inquiry into how a man could be beaten to death in view of RUC officers.

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It is understood the DPP took the decision because he felt that there was "no reasonable prospect of conviction." The Independent Commission for Police Complaints is considering possible disciplinary action against the RUC officers involved.

But human rights groups say this amounts to little more than the RUC investigating itself, despite the supervisory role of the ICPC. The Hamill family’s solicitor was Rosemary Nelson, until she was herself murdered by loyalists in March this year.

The Pat Finucane Center condemned the decision not to prosecute. A spokesman said, "The decision only underscores the need for a root-and-branch overhaul of the entire system of prosecutions," the center said.

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