Thursday, September 08, 2022

PSNI unlawfully refused to disclose whether paedophile priest was state informer, court told

 Finnegan victim awarded £150,000 in damages - Alpha Newspaper Group

Police have unlawfully refused to disclose whether or not an alleged prolific paedophile priest was a state informer, the High Court heard yesterday.

Counsel for a victim of child sexual abuse claimed the PSNI has breached his human rights by maintaining a policy of neither confirming nor denying the suspected status of the late Fr Malachy Finnegan.

Judgment was reserved in the legal bid to have the force compelled to act on requests for information about the cleric’s alleged role as an agent.

Finnegan, who died in 2002, has been accused of a campaign of abuse while a teacher at St Colman’s College in Newry.

He worked at the school between 1967 and 1987, spending the last decade as its president.

Amid allegations that the RUC tolerated Finnegan’s activities so that he could be utilised as an RUC informer, former Bishop of Dromore John McAreavey reportedly raised concerns with police in 2018.

Since then, requests for the PSNI to state if Finnegan was an informer received responses of neither confirming nor denying (NCND) the speculation.

Donal Sayers QC, for the man challenging the policy, argued that the police policy is contrary to his client’s entitlement to information protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

“There are concerns in the public domain that Finnegan was a police informer,” he told the court.

“Those concerns were raised at the level of a former bishop.”

Members of a body known as The Dromore Group, set up to raise awareness of clerical sexual abuse, attended court in support of the application for a judicial review.

The case is the first of its kind since west Belfast man Freddie Scappaticci mounted an unsuccessful High Court challenge in 2003 to the British Government refusing to confirm or deny press allegations that he was the spy codenamed Stakeknife operating inside the IRA.

Tony McGleenan QC, responding on behalf of the PSNI, argued that the NCND policy is invariably adopted for issues of suspected stage agents and sensitive intelligence information.

“That position has been endorsed by the courts in cases of this type… it’s how our system works effectively,” he said.

Following submissions, Mr Justice Colton confirmed he will give judgment at a later stage.

Outside court solicitor Kevin Winters, representing the man taking the legal action, said: “The case has potential far-reaching significance on matters of intelligence policing.”

Describing it as poignant to have members of the Dromore Group attend the hearing, Mr Winters added: “This represents the latest attempt by them to try and uncover exactly why Malachy Finnegan was never investigated for his crimes.”

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