Law & Order

Last week, Newton Emerson took the PSNI to task for what he described as an “appalling, farcical and totally unacceptable” conviction rate for murders. “Either the PSNI is not capable of doing its job or the PSNI has been told not to do its job,” he wrote. Assistant Chief Constable Peter Sheridan has written a response in today’s Irish News:”The police service will always accept and take on board criticism when it is justified but will not accept sweeping, inaccurate statements which do not take into consideration the complexities of murder investigations and the need to gather sufficient evidence within the legal framework to secure prosecutions,” he writes. This letter comes alongside controversy over the Gerard Lawlor murder case, with allegations that police have failed to act on information supplied by a new witness. The Irish News is also reporting that the Ombudsman is recommending re-opening the police file on the loyalist gun attack on Jason O’Halloran and his friend Jim Burns in 2002. Ballistics have revealed that the gun used in that attack was not the same gun used to murder Gerard Lawlor an hour later that night. Jason O’Halloran describes his contact with the PSNI: “I was shot on the Sunday night, the PSNI called to the hospital to take a statement from me on the Wednesday, at the time I was on large doses of pain killers and just wasn’t up to it. It was almost a month later before there was any attempt to get a statement from myself and Jim Burns and that was only because we made an appointment to go to Antrim Road station ourselves. After we made the statements we never heard another thing about the case.” Allegations of police collusion with the UDA are also swirling about the violent events of that night.

Murder clear-up item was gratuitous and groundless
Peter Sheridan Assistant Chief Constable for Crime Operation

I am writing to express my extreme disappointment at Newton Emerson’s column in
The Irish News on Thursday December 28 in which he makes what we consider to be a number of highly irresponsible claims about the PSNI’s ability and commitment in solving murders.
Let me categorically state from the outset that murder is the most heinous of crimes.
It strikes at the very heart of a civilised society and my officers carry out investigations with the utmost professionalism.
To suggest anything to the contrary is an insult to their dedication and integrity.
It is also a gratuitous insult for Mr Emerson to write: “Either the PSNI is not capable of doing its job or the PSNI has been told not to do its job.”
I can assure the columnist that no matter how complex the murder; no matter what the sensitivities are, the police have one simple, clear objective – that is to gather sufficient evidence to bring the killer before a court of law and secure a conviction.
This is our firm commitment to the community and families of murder victims who deserve nothing less.
From April 1 to December 22 2006 there were 18 murders.
In 15 of those cases people have been charged with murder and have appeared before a court.
Since the inception of the police service in 2001 there have been 162 murders.
During that time, police charged people with murder in relation to 145 cases (some of which may pre-date 2001).
It would be misleading for me to suggest that convictions were achieved in all cases.
However, the statistics clearly demonstrate our commitment to investigating these serious crimes and bringing people to justice.
The organisation is more than fit for purpose and is clearly having a real impact in tackling serious crime.
All murders are investigated by officers from Crime Operations Major Investigation Teams who are trained to the highest national standards.
The establishment of Crime Operations in 2004 brought together all areas of serious crime investigation, including intelligence, under a single department.
This major restructuring has been instrumental in ensuring consistency and a better sharing of information.
Crime Operations also carry out reviews into all unsolved murders which remain undetected 28 days into the investigation to ensure that all investigative opportunities are fully exploited.
The Historical Enquiries Team was set up at the start of 2006 to reexamine all deaths attributable to the Troubles.
The team ensures that all investigative and evidential opportunities are fully explored and assists in bringing a measure of resolution to the families of victims.
Mr Emerson claims that criticisms of police performance in murder investigations are met with a ‘stock answer’ that the PSNI needs more cooperation from the public.
It is not a ‘stock answer’. Vital evidence from the public is the central tenet of any investigation and more often than not a court conviction can only be secured through getting such evidence.
In the context of Northern Ireland, investigations – particularly in relation to paramilitary-related murders – have been seriously hampered in the past by witnesses too afraid to come forward to police for fear of reprisals.
This is not an excuse – it is a fact.
Despite this, we have charged loyalists and republicans with murder and numerous other serious offences in the last few years.
The police service will continue to strive to secure more convictions but do need the continued support of everyone in the community.
While we will do everything in our power to assist witnesses coming forward it is vital anyone with any information that could assist with investigations does come forward to police.
The police service will always accept and take on board criticism when it is justified but will not accept sweeping, inaccurate statements which do not take into consideration the complexities of murder investigations and the need to gather sufficient evidence within the legal framework to secure prosecutions.
Let me finish by making it clear the police service is absolutely resolute in its commitment to tackling all murders, be they paramilitary or domestic-related.
It is only through working together that we can put more killers behind bars where they belong.
We don’t always succeed.
No police service ever does.
But we will never stop trying.
Peter Sheridan
Assistant Chief Constable for Crime Operation

Excerpted from O’Loan team due to meet murdered man’s family, by Allison Morris, Irish News
The parents of murdered father-of-one Gerard Lawlor will meet senior investigators from the Police Ombudsman’s office on Monday for the first time since allegations that police have failed to act on information supplied by a new witness.
The 19-year-old was murdered by the UDA in July 2002 as he walked home along the Antrim Road on the same night loyalist gunmen went on a rampage in north Belfast.
To date no-one has been charged despite admissions by the then senior investigator, Detective Superintendent Roy Suitters, that police knew the names of his killers.
Speaking to The Irish News one year after the teenager’s murder, Mr Suitters said: “People have been arrested for this murder, that murder and they have all been released without charge – so what good did it do to go and arrest them?”
More recently the family discovered that a new witness, who first made a phone call to the confidential telephone line and then later approached police in person, has came forward and to date no arrests have been made.
John and Sharon Lawlor, along with Gerard’s partner Siobhan Ramsbottom, have now asked Nuala O’Loan’s office to investigate a series of apparently serious failures in the original PSNI murder inquiry.
Among their concerns is that evidence provided by a new witness that could have led to a possible conviction has yet to be acted on.

Excerpted from

  • Nationalist

    Why have the DUP not turned in these killers and criminals, they clearly live in Unionist areas and everyone in those would know them and what they have been doing.

    Is this just another example of the DUPs “Do as we say not as we do” attitude? After all everyone needs to remember that they were the only political party to approach a terrorist organisation and ask them NOT to go on ceasefire – thereby any ordinary person would assume they wanted that terrorist organisation (UVF) to continue its sectarian killings.

    The lack of DUP “Fingering”, as expressed as a need to prove support for police by Gregory Campbell, could therefopre also be taken as continuing suppoprt for their No Ceasefire stance in 1994 and support for that sectarian killing to continue to this day.

    Clearly if the police are not being provided with the level of information from those communities as described by Gregory Campbell then these killings and attempted killings will not be solved. So why are the DUP not delivering?

  • Rory

    Don’t be silly, Nationalist. Campbell wasn’t talking about Prods shooting Taigs. That’s not criminal, that’s cultural.

  • The Pedant

    “After all everyone needs to remember that they were the only political party to approach a terrorist organisation and ask them NOT to go on ceasefire – thereby any ordinary person would assume they wanted that terrorist organisation (UVF) to continue its sectarian killings.”

    I for one do not remember, Nationalist. Can you provide a link?

  • neeshonalist

    It’s complete nonsense of course – and was only put about by a small cabal of Provo loving, Stockholm syndrome educationally subnormal idiots in the PUP to blacken the DUP.
    It’s drivel.
    Unless of course Nationalist is about to corroborate his outlandish claim with some evidence.

  • The Pedant

    On the other hand, the Lawlor case is genuine enough to merit the attention of the police Ombudsman. The seriousness of the allegations tends to support Newton Emerson’s position.

  • ingram

    Newton Emersons point is a sound one.

    Sheridan knows the score.


  • Nationalist

    Pendant, Neeshonalist, David Ervine confirmed on a TV debate show that he attended a meeting between the UVF and the DUP in which the DUP asked the UVF NOT to go on ceasefire back in 1994.

    The programme was broadcast and this topic has surfaced a few times since, mainly everytime the DUP tries to lectures others about support for Law & Order.

    Maybe Neeshonalist could provide answers as to why when the story first surfaced and was confirmed by David Ervine (PUP Leader) and was published in the Sunday World newspaper on more than one occasion that the DUP have never tried to sue either David Ervine or the Sunday World?

    Surely if it wasn’t true they would have had an obligation to have Mr Ervine and the Sunday World retract the accusation – why did they not?

    I recall Mr Ervine stating to the DUP member of the TV panel “Do you want me to remind you of the colour of the wall paper in the house” where the meeting took place on the Shanill road.

    I as an ordinary person can only assume that Mr Ervine has no reason to tell lies as this would not affect how people look on him as he was a UVF Member, however the DUP would have some way to go to talk their way out of this – so their stance seemed to be ingore it and it will go away. Only thing is some of us still remember the statement.

    Anyone approaching a terrorist organisation and asking it not to go on ceasefire you would assume then that they support the continuation of the sectarian killings that were going on at the time, thankfully however the UVF decided to refuse their request and calaled a ceasefire, but unfortunately broke it a number of times.

  • The Pedant

    Interesting, Nationalist. How do you feel this affects the DUP’s approach to law and order, and their determination that Sinn Féin toe the line in this regard?

  • Nationalist

    Pendant, the DUP are being two faced.

    Paisely now needs to come out and state that a statement from the Sinn Fein AF will be enough to establish the Assembly as a working Government from 26th March.

    Sinn Fein can not be expected to go beyond that which other political parties currently do and they certainly can not make individuals stand up in court and “Finger” others as suggested.

    The transfer of policing powers is simply a red herring as both poarties had agreed they would not take the ministerial post until 2011 thereby allowing the unionist community some 4 years to see and hear Sinn Fein provide the same level of support as provided by others, i.e. requesting people give help to solve crimes if they know anything. It is then up to the individual from that point – I can’t recall seeing the DUP held solve any crimes!

  • fuiseog

    This is the ‘reformed’ Police Service that Sinn Féin, rather than admit to being politically outflanked on the issue, would have us support, have confidence in, and indeed our public safety in?


  • heck


    Get with the program. You can’t point out the hypocrisy of the DUP with regard to violence. That is called whataboutery on this site. Don’t you know that you can only complain about fenian violence?

  • heck

    “Despite this, we have charged loyalists and republicans with murder and numerous other serious offences in the last few years”!! wild turkey–read his words–nothing about state actors -scap/kevin fulton/gordon kerr etc.

    Ingram has a way of stating the obvious. Apart for the fact that he is an ex brit he has let a small amount of light shine on the dirty world of the british establishment, and we should be grateful for that.

  • Besides death, how does one become an “ex brit”?

  • Crataegus


    I agree with your assessment.

    I am no Republican and would passionately like to see a fair and effective police and justice system, but for various personal reasons I have serious doubts. It would seem to me that manipulation of the system for various political reasons, and a desire to keep past wrongs hidden has left many innocent people with their heads on the block. It is a disgrace and an utter mess. If of course that conclusion is wrong then the police are utterly incompetent, either way it’s bad.


    I agree the more light we can shine on state involvement and manipulation the sooner we near normality. All people who assist in that do us great favour. It is the distortion caused by manipulation, and dare I say criminal abuse, that is the greatest problem in policing and the judicial system.

    We are asking people to support something that many who are totally unsympathetic to the Republican modus operandi believe to be in part corrupted. Is there not some incongruity in that position.

    State condoned murder, if such exists, or existed, is still murder be it by proxy or not. Providing information that enabled murder to take place is aiding and abetting. Playing politics with prosecutions to aid internal power struggles in organisations is contempt and probably much worse. Hiding such involvement leaves one open to ongoing problems with disreputable types and being so compromised could conceivably lead to ongoing aiding and abetting. This is an utter mess if even partly correct and it is an intolerable state of affairs.

    I would rather see the same amnesties given to people working for the state, be they soldiers, civil servants or politicians, as were given to terrorists provided the admissions were made by a certain date than have this continuing to fester. There are times when you have to do the decent thing and take the hit and this is one of them. I don’t want prosecutions I just want a clean slate. Will it happen or are we are ruled by a spineless and deceitful pack of urchins?

    I doubt if Tony will decide to make any such issue his final memorable act for posterity and can’t see anyone at all likely to deviate from the current path. No George Washingtons out there?

  • heck


    said better that I could. I don’t want to see these people go to jail either but I want to see their activities exposed and admitted to and I was to ensure none of these people will ever be involved in policing in Nor Iron and that such activities can never occur again.

    And there should be no support for the Norn iron “Justice system” before that.


    wise up man -you know what I mean

  • Quaysider

    Sheridan hasn’t addressed any of the substantive points raised in the Emerson article. He doesn’t deny that the actual clear-up rate for paramilitary-related murders is just 8%, he doesn’t address the matter of PPS and NIO meddling and he ignores the fact that ‘public non-cooperation’ is not an excuse that washes in the Lawlor case, as the Ombdusman has now established.
    This letter is just corporate waffle – which is truly gratuitious in response to such a serious corporate failure.

  • neeshonalist

    “Provo loving, Stockholm syndrome educationally subnormal idiots in the PUP”

    yeah and if you don’t recognise Ervine in the above description…it’s utter nonsense.

  • The proof of the pudding, so to speak, wll be the Ombudsman’s report on Janaury 21 into the McCord murder.
    It will show how Haddock, JB, GH, DM, RM, WY, TF and the rest of the UVF Mount Vernon cabal were given free reign by their handlers to do what they pleased – including murder.
    As the Lawlor killing proves, as with earlier attempts that night to kill Jason O’Halloran, Jim Burns and Ryan Corbett, it can be argued that the cops effectively covered up for the UDA too.
    Why for example has there been no inquest into the Danny McColgan UDA murder in January 2002 yet? The names of his killers are well known. Fr Dan Whyte, Danny’s local priest, is one record as saying the men involved are informants who are being protected.
    The cops have been covering for Provo touts for years too, Scappatici being the most obvious example.
    That’s why the Shinners want a line drawn in the sand when it comes to reopening Troubles related killings when they eventually sing up to policing.

  • tactician

    In strategic terms, there were sound reasons for the loyalists continuing their campaign at that point: they were anihilating the republican enemy. The Provos were almost entirely militarily defeated.
    The Provo ceasefire only came as soon as it did because nationalists finally had a taste of what they’d allowed to be inflicted on unionists, were terrified and demanded they stop so that the loyalists would. Some might think that a longer taste would have been useful for further focusing their minds.

  • k

    do you regard machine gunning old men in pubs as ‘anihilating (sic) the republican enemy’? Loyalist paramilitaries did not directly engage the IRA. The cowards could only kill defenseless people including women and children.
    ‘Some might think that a longer taste would have been useful for further focusing their minds. ‘ Surely this comment is an incitement to murder? How low can these comments get?

  • Comrade Stalin

    they were anihilating the republican enemy

    Yeah – taxi drivers, kids who were working as postmen, teenagers who had boy/girlfriends of the wrong religion, people who looked like they might have been taigs but actually weren’t. Loyalists didn’t have the intelligence or the balls to stand up to the men of violence, so they gunned down civilians instead. Mind you, the provos weren’t much better.

    We now know that the republicans were talking to the British for at least five or six years prior to the ceasefires about stopping the campaign. Claiming that loyalists were responsible for that is pushing the truth. I think that the chuckies knew they’d put their foot in it badly with the Enniskillen bombing, then the Warrington bombing and then again with the Shankill bombing.

    Some might think that a longer taste would have been useful for further focusing their minds.

    If the Provos were unsuccessful in using violence to persuade unionists to change their minds, what makes you think that loyalists would be successful using the same tactics on them ? Clearly you’re a deranged apologist for murder.

  • Comrade Stalin

    How low can these comments get?

    K, I believe the comments from “tactician” are coming from a slow learner who still believes that violence works.

    The evidence is quite clearly to the contrary. The full onslaught of the IRA campaign did not change unionists – it made them more hardline and resolved to resist Irish reunification. Similarly, loyalist murders did not persuade republicans to change their minds – anything but.

    It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to see that the direct application of pure violence to a given problem does not change hearts and minds.

  • Quaysider

    …which makes it all the more pathetic to have such murders repeatedly covered up by the authorities.
    Here’s hoping that the fall-out from the McCord report sees Hugh Orde grow a pair and point the finger. These peace process immunity certificates came right from the top.

  • Unfortunately McCord won’t make Orde blink. It’s up to the public to force him to do that.
    That’s why they have postponed it until a Sunday, they are hoping for the minimum possible exposure.
    This is one of the biggest reports into police corruption ever, please sing it from the rooftops.
    Special Branch detectives allowed an informant to MURDER people in return for providing info on the UVF – McCord included.
    The public needs to speak out on this one – ROXY helped kill McCord, English, Fox, Convie, Templeton, Sheppard, Harbinson, Allen, McKenna, McParland, and others.
    Gowdy is still close to death, insist on the tout being brought to justice.