UVF victims’ families launch Ombudsman petition

By Gemma Burns

North Belfast families whose loved ones were the victims of a UVF murder gang are amongst those who have organised a petition calling for the Police Ombudsman to resign immediately.

Relatives of those killed by Mount Vernon UVF, who were at the centre of a damning report by former Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan detailing collusion with security forces, said Al Hutchinson’s position is untenable and he must resign from his post.

The relatives say the former Canadian Mountie’s plan to resign in January 2012 is not soon enough and have called on him to stand down. Their calls come after a BBC Spotlight programme where former chief executive of the Ombudsman’s office Sam Pollock revealed a number of failings within the office.

In September, a report by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate said the office’s operational independence had been lowered and that Mr Hutchinson had lost the trust of senior colleagues. Mr Hutchinson then announced he would be stepping down as Police Ombudsman earlier than planned, next June. It was the third highly critical report to be published into the work of the organisation.

The Police Ombudsman’s investigation into the shadowy UVF gang is still ongoing after Nuala O’Loan concluded in her damning report that the paramilitary killers were protected from prosecution because they were police agents.

Paul McKenna’s sister Sharon was visiting an elderly Protestant friend who had just been released from hospital in his Shore Road home when two UVF gunmen burst in and shot her in the 1993 sectarian attack.

He is one of the relatives calling for Al Hutchinson to go before January.

“We have been collecting signatures outside supermarkets and outside Casement and it has been very well received, people are very supportive,” he said,

“Families who have no confidence in his office are behind this because we want him to go immediately. The mess in the Ombudsman’s office needs cleared up as soon as possible.”

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was murdered by the UVF squad in 1997, has also been collecting signatures.

“The reaction from people has been amazing, they have been very supportive,” he said.

“Al Hutchinson has said he won’t go until January and it is terrible to want anyone to leave their job, but he has to go. This is not about politics; the office was set up for people across the country who have problems with the police. There is no confidence left in the Police Ombudsman and he has to go.”

A spokesman for the Police Ombudsman reiterated his position.

“The Police Ombudsman has already indicated his desire to leave his post by the end of January but has acknowledged that practical and legal issues must be addressed before that can happen,” he said.

“Mr Hutchison has advised OFMDFM that he would like the process of appointing a new Police Ombudsman to be expedited.”

 

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