Transcript of UTV Insight programme
Policing the police
Commentary: The divisions in Northern Irish society have clear physical manifestations. Mistrust and fear and still stalk the streets. Despite the Good Friday Agreement, the continued presence of walls and wire separating the two communities is testament to the ever-present fear that the killing grounds of north and west Belfast remain just that…killing grounds. The Govt has made it clear it will be some time yet before normal policing can replace the ubiquitous surveillance and covert operations. But does this emphasis on combating terrorism fatally undermine the possibility of delivering the goal of an acceptable and accountable police force?
Piece to Camera Tonight on Insight we investigate 20 years of Special Branch primacy in the murky world of intelligence gathering. We have spoken to former and serving members of the RUC who for the first time express grave doubts from within the force about the measures used by Special Branch to prosecute the war against terrorism. They paint a picture of one section of the force running all others – a unit operating without any clearly defined accountability, a unit out of control and shielded behind the secrecy of ‘national security’. What’s even more startling, are their claims that the move to give control of intelligence gathering to Special Branch was manipulated by Mi5 so that they in turn could establish a powerful influence over the Branch and, crucially, an important foothold within a British police force.
Commentary: As Northern Ireland prepares for a new dawn in policing, we ask: Will the ‘force-within-a-force’ destroy that possibility even before the first applications reach the vetting stage.
Brice Dickson, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission: It is essential to have informers and to have covert policing. But what is also essential is that the covert policing should not itself subvert the rule of law and that law-breakers should not be able to get away with the crimes they have committed. So what we need is a much more effective system for policing the police who conduct this kind of covert policing, better accountability systems, better complaint systems.
Commentary: Insight has spoken to a wide range of detectives and discovered, like the Patten Commission, their deep concerns about what they view as the high-handed attitude of Special Branch. The threat of Special Branch reprisal is still so real for these officers, past and present, that they asked us to protect their identities. Their words are spoken by actors.
Chief Superintendent A: Special Branch had primacy within the force. From the running of informants, to arrests and raid operations or even surveillance, we needed Special Branch approval. And it was only given if it suited them.
Commentary: Police officers told us that Special Branch curtailed investigations, hampered operations and denied colleagues crucial information that could lead to arrests and prosecution.
Detective Constable B: Special Branch ran us. Anyone who stood up to their interference or questioned their role would be threatened with dire consequences – a transfer to an unpopular area or worse.
Commentary: Our investigation reveals bitter resentment over the way the Branch sought to use its power to pull officer and criminal alike into a web of deceit in which crime would be allowed to flourish if it served the wider Special Branch agenda.
Inspector C: Our attempt to fight the war on drugs was hopelessly compromised by the activities of Special Branch. They allowed dealers to act with impunity in return for intelligence. What they did not realise was that it was the drug dealers who were using them.
Commentary: What really damns Special Branch is our disclosure that it blocked the attempts of a respected detective from following up a confession to one of the most controversial murders of the Troubles, that of Belfast solicitor, Pat Finucane.
Jonty Brown, Former Detective Sergeant in CID: I don’t have the ability to argue with people in headquarters or there could be a 100 reasons why at that time why they didn’t want to move. They might have wanted to move a month or two down the line on it. It might have made more sense evidentially. They could be siting there with the other nine-tenths of the picture. I don’t know. Are you are asking me did I expect them to bring him to book for the murder of Pat Finucane, absolutely.
Commentary: More disturbing still is our revelation that Special Branch officers tampered with evidence and in order to prevent the truth from coming out, deliberately misled the Stevens Inquiry.
Jonty Brown: Someone in within a week of that confession being in our domain had made the decision not only not to go forward with the investigation but to obstruct and to insure that anyone like myself or my colleague who took a nervous breakdown coming forward would be ridiculed. Nuala O’Loan, Police Ombudsman: There’s a lot of myth around Special Branch and what we’re doing at the moment is we’re looking at the activities of the police generally. And we’re trying to work out mechanisms by which we can facilitate officers who do want if you like to blow the whistle not in respect of lawful Special Branch activity but in respect of unlawful Special Branch activity or unlawful CID activity.
Commentary: Retired Detective Sergeant Jonty Brown describes himself as a reluctant whistle-blower, compelled to go public to set the record straight after 30 years of investigating crime.
Jonty Brown: I joined the RUC on Bloody Sunday, 30 January 1972 so it’s a day that’s thrown up at you all the time. It’s not something, you’re reminded every anniversary and properly so, a tragic day for Northern Ireland and a landmark in Northern Ireland’s troubles. I done two years in uniform at Newtownabbey and then after that, I served in the CID for the remainder of the 28 years.
Commentary: Jonty Brown devoted his life to putting terrorists behind bars – his most notable success being the investigation that put UFF leader Johnny Adair in prison.
Jonty Brown: I would have taken the view that it was my duty to go right into the heart of the UFF on the Shankill or any grouping. I mean it wasn’t just the UFF. There were, the UVF were taking life day in day out and the people in Northern Ireland were suffering, both sides of the divide and there was, it was my understanding that we had a clear duty to save life at any time. And in 99.9% of the cases we worked well with Special Branch but yes, there were difficulties because of our distinctly two different roles. There’s no doubt that I owe my life to Special Branch and I take my hat off to the good work they have done over the years. Certainly because of their intelligence I’m here today and I’m not saying this, and it doesn’t come without difficulty because it does.
Commentary: The origins of the difficulties between Special Branch and the CID are to be found in confidential internal guidelines obtained by Insight. The guidelines called the Walker Report created a policing culture in which all information and ultimately decision-making power resides with the Special Branch.
Chris Ryder, Former member of Police Authority There’s no doubt that this culture of secrecy, of unaccountability, of doing things behind closed doors which was often necessary to protect the lives of informers above all, fostered this arrogance and fostered a belief that somehow, the Special branch enjoyed special powers. And there’s no doubt at all that with the backing of the security service and the government, it was very difficult for even successive chief constables to break the firm within a firm. There was always that inner core, that inner sanctum of Special Branch which was surrounded by excessive secrecy, excessive expulsion of outsiders and an excessive arrogance.
Commentary: The significance of the Walker Report on policing here cannot be stressed enough. Insight has been told by a very senior RUC source that Mi5 was centrally involved in drawing up the guidelines.
SENIOR SOURCE Mi5 wanted the power of having a role in fighting terrorism from within the police and secondly they wanted the opportunity to train their operatives and what better training ground than Northern Ireland in the middle of a terrorist war? Hermon was assured of their good intentions and succumbed because in return he was promised unlimited funds and prestige. The RUC Special Branch had a chance to play the game with the big boys and finally they were transformed from a backwater force to one that enjoyed international recognition for their surveillance and intelligence gathering techniques. Special Branch ran the RUC, but it was Mi5 pulling their strings behind the scenes.”
Brice Dickson: I would have understood that there had to be some document governing the relationship between the Special Branch and other parts of the police. I am somewhat alarmed by some parts of the report and in particular, those parts that give such extreme power to the Special Branch. A lot depends of course on how that power has been exercised by the Branch but its potential for abuse is very great.
Commentary: Not only did Special Branch control access to all intelligence on informants and suspects, but they had the power to use not only the holding centres at Castlereagh and Gough but also the entire police network to recruit informers in return for immunity from prosecution, irrespective of the crime.
Again this is institutionalised in the Walker Report, which still informs police thinking today. The Walker report declares that sufficient time must elapse before someone is charged and a court appearance to allow Special Branch to interview suspects. This is declared necessary to:
“ensure that information provided by the person so recruited is handled in such a way that his value as an agent is not put at risk at an early stage.”
Piece to Camera: Decisions made here 10 years ago at Castlereagh police station perhaps provide the most spectacular example of how Special Branch’s total control could subvert the very laws they were supposed to uphold as seen through the way in which they mandaged the Pat Finucane murder inquiry. We already know that Special Branch had an agent inside the ranks of the UDA, William Stobie and that he had told his handlers a hit was being planned. We also know that military intelligence, through its agent Brian Nelson, was targeting Mr Finucane. But even if those areas of concern about the knowledge prior to the event can satisfactorily be answered, the real problems for Special Branch come after the murder – not only because they refused to help with a new plan of inquiry but also their undermining of it.
Commentary: Ten years ago Jonty Brown unexpectedly found himself thrust into a situation that brought him into conflict with Special Branch. A loyalist, known to him, telephoned – requesting a meeting. It was October 1st 1991, two years after the Finucane murder.
Jonty Brown: It was his idea, he was coming forward, what we would call a walk-in. It wasn’t, certainly we had interviewed this man time and time again and each time we did interview him, we would ask him if ever you can save a life, help us save a life. And certainly we had the means available to use if life was threatened, to save a life and when he rang in yes, we met him and he gave us this scenario and I went back to my authorities with this.
Commentary: If the loyalist intended to become a source of information, it was not, he said, to involve Special Branch. But Sgt. Brown had no alternative but to go immediately to Special Branch as stated in the Walker guidelines.
a. An agent or source reporting on subversive organisations should be handled by Special Branch. b. If not possible the agent should be handled and reported on jointly by CID and Special Branch, even though the latter’s role is purely advisory.
Commentary: A second meeting was arranged with the loyalist on October 3rd – and this time the CID were accompanied by a Special Branch officer armed with a tape recorder…what they heard would astound them.
Jonty Brown: They provided the car complete with audio tape which was agreed. I mean it wasn’t surreptitious as far as I was concerned. But it was certainly surreptitious as far as the informant was concerned. He explained how he’d stood over Mr Finucane and had emptied this gun into Mr Finucane’s face. And he wasn’t just admitting the murder, he was boasting and gloating over the fact that he’d murdered this man. And he’d related how the bullets had gone into the floor and then because of the heavy stone floor, they were actually coming up past him and he had almost shot himself in error. So he relates this and I asked him well, what happened next. He said I think she got onto the road and she was shot and I don’t know whether he shot her or whether his colleague but they left the house and got outside. And the man in the car, he said he was a young man and he couldn’t drive off, he said what’s that shooting, what was that about. Apparently the driver didn’t know there was going to be a shooting. And he told him drive or I’ll shoot you and I’ll drive and in terror the lad drove off.
Commentary: Unfamiliar with the exact details of the Finucane murder, Sgt. Brown began making checks to authenticate the confession.
Jonty Brown: The photographs and the video of the murder of Mr Finucane were a very closely guarded matter because it was really important that it didn’t enter the public domain. Now, we did get access following this confession to the tapes and the next time I met him was on the 10th of October. But in the mean time my colleague had stuck the video into the machine and he called me over and says come and see this and there was Mr Finucane lying in this fork. So yes, it was at that stage I realised that yes, that we had what was a very very important admisstion.
Commentary: Sergeant Brown quickly realised that Special Branch did not share his enthusiasm for an evidential inquiry into the loyalist’s confession – they wanted to cultivate the source rather than bring him to justice…a further meeting was arranged for October 10…again Special Branch attended.
Chris Moore, Reporter:
You’ve got a taped confession. You’ve written up your notes in your journal.
Jonty Brown: Special Branch have a taped confession – there’s a difference. And the Special Branch have a duty just as much as I do to investigate the murder or help us investigate the murder of Mr Finucane. It was being discussed, I was told it had been discussed at a high level, a very senior level in the police and I have to accept that. The next meeting was scheduled for a week later and things were going along. I didn’t expect that meeting to take place to be quite honest with you. I didn’t expect the meeting on the 10th. I expected the senior police to come down totally on going this way and I didn’t know of any reason not to. And I still don’t know and I’m as at odds with what happened today as I was in 1991.
Commentary: With Special Branch in control of the October 10th meeting, Sergeant Brown listened intently, unaware of the devious scheme unfolding.
Jonty Brown: But here’s a repeated like a child would want a toy, you mustn’t mention, you mustn’t mention, you mustn’t mention. And as we got to meet the individual collected him and parked up, the Special Branch officer removed from his coat a paper folded A4 size folded or an envelope folded into shape that sort of size. And he’d questions on it and he told us he’d question for this individual. So really in this second meeting we were taking a back seat and I’m listening to this and the informant is complaining about going over the same ground that we went over on the 3rd of the 10th. He’s getting as bad as the Special Branch officer. He’s keeping asking me why are we going over this and over this and over this. It doesn’t make sense.
Commentary: Frustrated about the RUC’s failure to open up a new line of inquiry into the confession, Sgt. Brown couldn’t even make a move against the loyalist source. Under the Walker guidelines, no arrest is possible without first getting approval of Special Branch. ’All proposals to effect planned arrests must be cleared with Regional special branch to ensure that no agents of either RUC or Army are involved. ’A decision to arrest an agent must only be taken after discussion between Special Branch and CID. If agreement is not possible the matter will be referred to Assistant Chief constable level. ’The charging of an agent must be the result of a conscious decision by Special Branch and CID in which the balance of advantage has been carefully weighed.
Commentary: However much he might accept the need for covert police operations, Brice Dickson rejects the morality of allowing the intelligence services to make valued judgements when it comes to serious crime.
Brice Dickson: I would have thought that as a general rule if not as an absolute rule whenever the police have someone who has confessed to as serious a crime as murder then all use of that person as an informer should immediately end and a prosecution should ensue. To as it were, sacrifice the life of the victim of that person for the potential of saving the lives of other as yet unidentified people is a calculated risk that doesn’t deserve to be made in my view. In other words, I think to refuse to prosecute or to delay the prosecution of such an individual in the hope of getting other evidence from him is completely unjustified.
Commentary: By 1989 Pat Finucane was a major thorn in the side of the British establishment, a criminal defence lawyer whose ability to undermine prosecutions led to ministerial statements in parliament accusing lawyers of being unduly sympathetic to the IRA. He was living on borrowed time. Speaking to this programme earlier this year his wife Geraldine who was injured at the fatal shooting poured scorn on the RUC investigation.
Geraldine Finucane: I have never really thought a great deal about the person who actually killed my husband. At the time that he was killed and probably even yet gunmen in Belfast were two a penny. They are not the people that I like to focus my attention on. I’ve always right from the word go focused attention on the people behind the gunmen who orchestrated it and decided it was going to happen. And over the years I’ve been more than justified in my initial belief that the loyalists were being used.
Commentary: In North Belfast at the time the only growth industries were the courts and the undertakers. It was the epicentre of the troubles, devastated by the rage associated with the descent into communal violence. The crime detective who knew the identity of the killer ten years ago to this day cannot comprehend why the RUC investigation to transform the confession into hard evidence was blocked.
Jonty Brown: Yes, there’s no doubt that the man’s potential as an informant was profound, his ability to save life. I mean I’ve to agree that yes, it was profound. But how do you balance that against the clearance of crime which is being slapped against the fact of the Royal Ulster Constabulary every turn of the road?
Commentary: In effect the power bestowed on Special Branch by the Walker report meant that their hunger for intelligence about subversion often took them into uncharted and potentially dangerous territory where fine judgements had to be taken.
Chris Moore: The Special Branch might justify it by saying its worthwhile if allowing one killer to go free can save maybe 50 lives in the future. They seem to be able, to have the power to determine who lives and who dies.
Brice Dickson: Well, they seem to, you’re suggesting but the saving of these 50 lives, these extra lives is a completely unknowable thing. It’s a possible thing but when set against the reality of a murder to which somebody has confessed then I think one can put to one side the potential for saving other lives. There would be other informers I imagine who might be able to provide the kind of evidence that would save those lives as well.
Commentary: The emphasis on covert policing constantly battles against the core duties laid down by parliament
a. to protect life and property b. to preserve order c. to prevent the commission of offences d. to take measures to bring the offender to justice.
Johnston Brown took early retirement from the RUC this month – largely because of battles associated with his desire to prosecute Pat Finucane’s killer contrary to the wishes of his masters, which under the Walker guidelines meant the Special Branch.
Jonty Brown: I can look over my left shoulder for the UVF or the UDA, the right for the Provisional IRA or the IPLO. But for a lot of years before ’91, ’92, I’ve been looking over it for Special Branch officers who have threatened me with jail, who have told me that my son will be caught with a gun, a time when he was 14 years old. These added aggravations, no-one needs them.”
Commentary: The government had hoped that the recommendations of the Patten Commission that Special Branch should be reduced in size, amalgamated and subject to greater control could transform the mood music. While the number of applications for the new force has now reached more than ten thousand, there’s little question that 50:50 recruitment won’t be achieved, the longer-term problems associated with Special Branch remain unresolved. Insight understands from senior sources that the new guidelines to replace Walker national security will continue to inform police thinking.
Chris Ryder: There are people who hold a view that Special Branch is a tool of the security service and that it’s a firm within a firm within the RUC. And I think there are convincing reasons to believe that, to an extent that’s the case. But on the other hand, the Special Branch is made up of RUC personnel. They’re people who come from Northern Ireland. They are accountable within the RUC framework and for historical reasons the Special Branch has been a firm within a firm. That’s possibly been necessary in circumstances that existed in the past. I don’t think it’s necessary now and I think that the way forward is for the oversight mechanisms that are put in place to design the new police service and make sure that it meets the needs of the community and the interests of the community. Interests itself in this particular aspect of the way ahead and ensures that never again do we have a situation where the Special Branch is even put in a position where these allegations can be made against it.
Nuala O’Loan: I think really the only way that people are going to be assured that the powers that we have are adequate will be when they see the results of the investigations. And I think in a way that’s quite difficult because I can go through a process of investigation where I can go into Special Branch. I will get the details of intelligence, intelligence obviously by its very nature is a very special animal and I have therefore made special provisions to take care of how we handle that kind of information. But at the end of the day I can make recommendations to the Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution of officers. Now then it’s a matter of how long it takes the Director of Public Prosecutions to make up his mind whether there should or shouldn’t be a prosecution and that could take several months. So I think what the public have in a way to resign themselves to and in a way to trust me is that it may be a year of more before we begin to see what I would regard as real results out of this office. But that’s the matter of criminal investigation and that’s why it’s so important that we have the powers but that in exercising the powers, we exercise them properly. We don’t rush anything but we do it very properly and very strategically so I can only say to people, bear with us, let us do this job, give us enough time to do the job and then measure us by what we achieve.
Commentary: The scale of the task is immense and will involve effectively transforming a climate of fear and distrust. Special Branch is accused by CID officers of using covert surveillence techniques designed to combat terrorism to assert internal control. Senior officers warned us that Special Branch was not only a law onto itself but the very fact that Insight was investigating its activities meant that the programme makers could themselves be threatened or undermined. This could be little more than paranoia – but the testimony makes for chilling reading.
Superintendent A: I remain fearful of my life even though I have retired.
Chief Superintendent: If I die in a road accident I have already told my wife to ensure there is a full investigation.
Ex-Chief Superintendent: I fear the Special Branch more than the Provisional IRA or the Real IRA.
Detective Constable: Most of the Special Branch files were actually on serving members of the RUC. This gave the Special Branch enormous power over the rest of the force. A Special Branch file was kept on every personnel record and of course this could determine whether a CID officer was going to be promoted or not.
Commentary: Special Branch enjoys having what amounts to total control of the RUC’s investigative authority – a fact dramatically emphasised by evidence of the Branch’s continuing dirty tricks. And as Jonston Brown discovered in giving evidence to the Stevens inquiry, the Branch was not averse to attempting to destroy an officer’s career in order to disguise its failure to act on the police oaths it pledged to uphold.
Jonty Brown: I wasn’t put under any pressure, I was there voluntarily and I made a statement, a six page statement outlining as I have with you, my career or involvement in the murder squad in ’89 and the running of informants from then until I retired. And setting out exactly what had taken place on the 1st, 3rd and 10th October. And before I would sign it, the Sergeant told me to read the certificate which took me aback because the certificate sets out quite clearly that if you say anything or do anything right. And sign anything that you know to be not true or don’t believe it to be true or you know it’s not true and you sign that, that’s perjury. It’s as simple as that and I understood that. I wasn’t at odds with that, I’d no problem with that. Nonetheless, they were saying to me to be very careful. Was I sure, could I be wrong, I said no and I signed it. When I signed it the officers who’d just cleared the desk and as I done it thousands of time myself and the atmosphere changed totally. And they were looking at me then like a police suspect and I couldn’t understand this and I said what’s the problem. And they asked me would I agree that a tape recording of the event of the 3rd of October 1991 in which I alleged this man made the confessions was an independent means of verifying who was telling the truth. I said yes – I mean how do you argue with that? Yes, I had a stipulation, a reservation, I said look people can do things with tapes and they assured me the tape had been to New Scotland Yard. It had been examined and it had not been tampered with. But there was no evidence or no confession to the murder of Mr Finucane on it. And I was aghast, I could see myself facing court for perjury in the full knowledge that I wasn’t telling lies. How could this not be changed? How could this be that this tape was in total contradiction to my written records? And then they allowed me to listen to a couple minutes of the tape and said that’s all. It was just road noise so I canvassed them and Mr Stevens said allow him to listen to the entire tape, give him paper to write whatever notes he wants, at the end of this note-taking, seize the notes and exhibit. I listened to the tape and of this alleged 3rd of 10th ’91 and in the first two minutes of the tape, the informant questions me about two murders on the Shankill Road that particular night – the murder of Henry Fleming Ward, the circumstances I was completely au fair and the murder of a taxi driver in North Belfast which had happened in my absence on that evening. Although I was aware there had been the murder of a taxi man, a Catholic taxi man in retaliation immediately by the UDA obviously so the tape dated itself. I didn’t know the dates of the murders so I rang what we call RIU – it’s the Regional Intelligence Unit and asked them to give me the dates of the murder of Henry Fleming Ward and they said it was the 10th of the 10th ’91.
Commentary: What had happened that night was that IPLO shot dead a Shankill Road man in the Diamond Jubilee bar. A few hours later Johhny Adair’s UFF team took revenge when they murdered a Catholic taxi driver in the Oldpark area. The tape was clearly labelled October 3 the date of Brown’s second meeting with the source – the first at which the Branch attended and recorded. Johnston Browne began to see a dangerous strategy emerging, simultaneously amazed and gratified that whoever substituted the tape failed to take away its identifying character.
Chris Moore: This tapes that was marked the 3rd of October was actually a recording that was taken on the 10th of October?
Jonty Brown: Yes, unless the individual in the car had a crystal ball on the 3rd of October. He couldn’t have known about two murders on the 10th. What actually had happened was and I was given the task of transcript of this tape because these people are from London and some of the dialect we have here, the Ulster dialect is at times even with our in-depth knowledge of it, indiscernible on audio tape. So as I was going through the audio tape, I realised exactly what had taken place and I was incensed. But immediately that I realised that it was the 10th of the 10th ’91, Mr Stevens was called down and I told him that this couldn’t have been the 3rd of the 10th and he was taken aback.
Chris Moore: This was a very serious situation because this tape had been supplied and verified by Special Branch to Sir John Stevens’ Inquiry team as being the tape of October the 3rd.
Jonty Brown: Yes, it didn’t surprise me. I mean I’ve had difficulty with individuals in Special Branch and these individuals that I would be at odds with, continually at odds with. It doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t listen to that tape but obviously it came back in to Castlereagh. All it had to be was a re-run of the 3rd in line with my notebooks and my journals in the same order as I would have in my notes and that rids Special Branch of the confession. Why this was done and it was done within a week of the confession, it wasn’t done in ’98, I don’t know. You would have to ask Special Branch.
Chris Moore: But this is a very serious matter, people will be profoundly shocked to learn that the Special Branch have deliberately tampered with evidence before a police inquiry.
Jonty Brown: Well certainly I knew how I felt. Someone in within a week of that confession being in our domain had made the decision not only not to go forward with the investigation but to obstruct and to ensure that anybody like myself or my colleague who took a serious break down coming forward would be ridiculed.
Brice Dickson: Well obviously if that is true then that is shocking in the extreme. That indicates that the Special Branch are subverting the rule of law themselves far from upholding the rule of law. And certainly the Human Rights Commission would be horrified if that were true. Chris Moore: And what sanction should be taken against Special Branch?
Brice Dickson: Well, there ought to be a very thorough inquiry into that allegation and hopefully the Stevens Inquiry will get to the bottom of that. I would have thought those involved with the Special Branch and those involved at the highest level in the police ought to be held to account for those decisions, for that decision not to reveal all the evidence, to conceal some of the evidence from the Stevens Inquiry. I would have thought those at the very top of the RUC ought to be held to account for that
Nuala O’Loan: I would not comment on the particular case and I wouldn’t comment on Detective Sergeant Brown. But what I would say is that an officer in that situation would have somewhere to go now and there would be a professional investigation which would follow up on an allegation if it were made.
Chris Moore: So there would be somewhere for somebody like Johnty Brown to go nowadays whereas perhaps 10 years ago there wasn’t?
Nuala O’Loan: Yes I mean our phone number is in all our publications, there’re in all the police stations, they can phone us, they can ask for Director of Investigations and that’s it.
Chris Moore: And so members of the new Police Service who feel uncomfortable about arrangements being made by Special Branch in the future have now the opportunity to as you say to by-pass their own management and come to you?
Nuala O’Loan: Yeh, I think you have to be very careful because it depends what you’re talking about. I mean if you’re talking about lawful arrangements which are made for the conduct of policing affairs then whilst I could have a look and make sure they were lawful, that’s it. I can go no further beyond commenting on the way in which the police are conducting their activity, no power to direct anything, no power to take action against anyone. But if a police officer is claiming for example that he’s been prevented from investigation a crime then that maybe different and that would be something that I would want to look at.
Commentary: Given Special Branch’s activity and the clear example of attempting to pervert the cause of justice can there be any public confidence that the police can police itself. The Police Ombudsman, who already is making clear her determination to prove the efficacy of her office, could take up the case. Insight understands that new powers will allow her to act retrospectively without time limit in grave and exceptional cases. The problem of preserving the secrecy associated with Special Branch has now come back to haunt it, a fact accepted even by those who caution not to jump to conclusions in relation to the Brown allegations.
Chris Ryder: There’s been far too much secrecy and unnecessary secrecy within the whole security environment and particularly within the police and security services which has allowed an awful lot of issues to fester and to become major issues where a full and frank disclosure of the circumstances would have prevented that happening. And things that have become almost of mythical proportion now which do not have that justification in the origins of them would never have taken off and become the myths that they are. Commentary: What you have seen and heard in this programme represents a small fraction of the dossier we have compiled in relation to questionable Special Branch activity, This includes allegations from within the drugs squad that the Branch deliberately colluded in bringing in narcotics in order to build up information on suspected paramilitaries. All of this is part of the past for Jonhston Browne, a man who has seen his entire world turned upside down – threatened by both terrorists and those he regarded as colleagues. Jonty Brown: When terrorists threaten you as a police officer you live with that. It’s not, it’s something that all my colleagues suffered day in day out. Some more than others but perhaps I was a bit more involved than others. I dedicated myself to putting these people away. And it’s when they start to threaten your children that you have got to is it back and reflect and ask yourself you know, is it worthwhile to carry on at this stage when everything else seems to be going pear- shaped. I mean a lot of things are happening in Northern Ireland that I would not be at ease with and when I look at the seat of parliament or Stormont and It’s like the Who’s Who out of the criminal record office, you know it’s just. For me as a police officer that’s hard to digest but that’s a political, these are political meanderings and that’s a matter for politics. As police officers we don’t concern ourselves with politics and certainly I was trained that every life out there including IRA life or UVF life, if we can save a man’s life, we saved a man’s life. There was no such thing as well he’s an IRA man, we will let him die. A lot is made in the press about I’m at odds with Special Branch and yes, there is friction with Special Branch and in this particular case of the Finucane inquiry, I’m at odds with what happened in that.
Commentary: What is already clear that the present reform programme fails to address the force within a force and risks perpetuating the problems associated with the past.