Press Release by Mark Thompson 20/02/2009

Statement from Mark Thompson Director of Relatives for Justice concerning today’s suspended sentences to PSNI civilian worker and Randalstown loyalist Aaron Hill and his associate Randalstown UVF member Darren ‘Bubbles’ Richardson. Richardson was arrested in April 2007 at his workplace Wright Bus Ballymena whilst in possession of a quantity of ammunition and 117 personal details concerning 67 nationalists and republicans. Hill, who had access to the PSNI computer in Belfast’s Musgrave St. Station, provided the details.

Speaking on the courts ruling Mark Thompson said;

‘From the outset it has been patently obvious to those targeted that a chain of events was implemented in a bid to damage limitate and conceal the full extent of collusive activities between loyalist Darren ‘Bubbles’ Richardson, PSNI civilian worker Aaron Hill, and unknown others.

‘The question that has always persisted is  – Were those others members of the PSNI Special Branch and the British army? Initially a serving British soldier was arrested but later released.

‘The PPS refused to meet myself and other people targeted, refused to accept statements, and eventually accepted guilty pleas thus effectively denying any scrutiny of their collusive actions. This amounts to a deal securing the silence of all involved. Twenty years on from the murder of Pat Finucane it appears that nothing has changed regarding addressing the issue of collusion as the system once again closes ranks.

‘At no time has the PSNI nor the PPS proactively engaged myself, provided information, or liaised concerning developments on the case. If anything I and others targeted have been actively kept in the dark as constantly throughout this affair many of us actively sought information.

‘Instrumental in all of this has been the PPS which has acted as the safety valve in terms of yet again ensuring that no information emerges concerning official collusion. This is a matter of huge public interest and yet the criminal justice system has deliberately acted contrary to that interest. There is no effective oversight or transparency concerning the PPS in which it thereby becomes the vehicle of convenience in terms of burying the truth about collusion.

‘The court, despite being actively contacted by lawyers representing those targeted, failed both to seek and accept victim impact assessments of those targeted.

‘Richardson was caught in possession of a quantity of 9mm ammunition – yet there has been no investigative process to establish the origins of this cache of ammunition and whether or not any ammunition from the original cache/batch was previously used. I have made several public calls on the PSNI Chief Constable to facilitate an Ombudsman led investigation as a matter of ensuring both public confidence and especially the confidence of those targeted yet this he has failed to respond. Today that confidence is shattered.

‘It was revealed that Aaron Hill used his PSNI position to access details for the past five years – the obvious question is what was the nature of that information and more precisely was anyone attacked or killed as a direct consequence of information passed onto loyalists over that five year period? That Aaron Hill walked free after pleading guilty beggars belief.

‘Because of today’s deal those questions remain unanswered. The real victim today is confidence in policing and criminal justice.

‘In relation to Justice McLaughlin’s summing up we found his constant reassurance of the ‘good character’ of the accused Darren Richardson in direct contradiction of Richardson’s previous conviction of sectarian assault on a Catholic with an offensive weapon absolutely incredulous.’ENDS