Death threats “were not handled properly”

Plenty of coverage of the Police Ombudsman’s findings in relation to complaints made by the Committee on the Administration of Justice about the then-RUC’s investigation, or lack of it, into death threats made against the solicitor Rosemary Nelson. But, as always, it’s better to go to the source before commenting. The Ombudsman’s statement identifies the main findings as

The Police Ombudsman, Mrs Nuala O’Loan, has said an abusive and inherently dangerous leaflet and a death threat made against the solicitor Rosemary Nelson were not handled properly by the police. Mrs O’Loan said that in their handling of these documents the RUC did not properly consider the particular nature of Mrs Nelson’s public profile, or the level of concern about her safety.

And one paragraph in the released version of the report stands out

“No individual officer had the responsibility for bringing together all these matters and making a risk and threat assessment based on all the available information. There were no systems in place at that time designed to ensure that information was captured and processed in that way.”

From the Police Ombudsman’s statement

Allegation One: (a) The Chief Constable and other unnamed officers failed to properly investigate the threats in the documents which the NIO had forwarded to the Chief Constable’s Office and (b) the RUC failed to request the original threatening documents prior to the murder.

One of the matters referred to in the complaint was contained in a leaflet which circulated in the Portadown area during the summer of 1998, and which referred to Mrs Nelson in an abusive and inherently dangerous manner, and gave her address and telephone number. The other was a copy of an anonymous letter received by Mrs Nelson in June 1998, which said “We have you in our sights…RIP.” Mrs Nelson said this letter terrified her.

The CAJ sent the copy documents to the NIO and asked that there be an assessment of any threat to the people named, including Mrs Nelson.

Finding. One (a) The Police Ombudsman has found that there is no evidence that the NIO forwarded the anonymous letter to the Chief Constable’s Office. Police Ombudsman investigators have established that the NIO faxed a general letter about the issues raised in the leaflet and note, but did not find any evidence that the two documents were also faxed to the police.

However, Mrs O’Loan found the RUC were aware of the letter and that it contained a threat to Mrs Nelson. (Moreover, it is known that Mrs Nelson produced the letter at a meeting about her complaints in September 1998.) The Police Ombudsman said she believes that the RUC did not deal with either the letter or the leaflet properly.

Mrs O’Loan said the RUC’s assessment of Mrs Nelson’s situation, and its subsequent actions, were inadequate. She said police should have made more strenuous efforts to establish a clearer picture of the level of risk and threat to Mrs Nelson, particularly given her profile at the time:

“They did not acknowledge the existence of the previous death threats, including two threats which were said to have come from police officers. Nor did they acknowledge a previous assessment in which Special Branch believed Mrs Nelson was at a “degree of risk” and that police had taken “some precautions”.

“No individual officer had the responsibility for bringing together all these matters and making a risk and threat assessment based on all the available information. There were no systems in place at that time designed to ensure that information was captured and processed in that way.” she said.

Finding One (b) The Police Ombudsman found there is no evidence that prior to the murder, the RUC requested the documents which the NIO had omitted to send to them, and had not initiated any investigation of them.

Mrs O’Loan said that in handling these matters, the police did not acknowledge the context of the particular nature of Mrs Nelson’s public profile and of the level of concern about her safety.

“Whether or not the anonymous note could have provided any forensic opportunity is a moot point. There is no evidence that the RUC tried to get the NIO copy of the anonymous letter, much less trace the original itself.

Strenuous enquiries should have been made into all the threats which Mrs Nelson received to identify whether there was any association between those threats and paramilitaries,” said Mrs O’Loan.

Finding Two: The Police Ombudsman rejected a complaint that the RUC failed to properly investigate the threats against Mrs Nelson contained in Loyalist Billy Wrights diary, and to inform her of the content of the diary. She concluded there was no evidence that police had possession of the diary prior to Mrs Nelson’s murder.

Finding Three. The Police Ombudsman rejected a complaint that police failed to warn Mrs Nelson about dangers she faced from the Loyalist Volunteer Force and its cover group, the Red Hand Defenders. Police Ombudsman investigators examined all relevant files and established that police did not hold any intelligence relating to threats to Mrs Nelson from those groups.

Finding Four: The Police Ombudsman has not substantiated a complaint that the Chief Constable failed in his responsibility to respond to the concerns repeatedly raised by the CAJ.

The Police Ombudsman is of the view that were delays in the responses to CAJ’s letters. However she accepts that there were occasions when the Chief Constable and other officers did meet with CAJ, and that the Chief Constable explained that he could not answer some of the questions raised, without putting in danger the integrity of the investigation into Mrs Nelson’s murder, and disclosing information he was not at liberty to disclose.

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  • “No individual officer had the responsibility for bringing together all these matters and making a risk and threat assessment based on all the available information. There were no systems in place at that time designed to ensure that information was captured and processed in that way.”

    Therefore a human being gets blown to bits….

  • PeaceandJustice

    When is Nuala O’Loan going to be replaced? [edited moderator]

    Her anti-RUC agenda is clear for everyone to see.

  • Pete Baker

    PJ

    Play the ball!

  • Paul

    When is PeaceandJustice going to be replaced? [edited moderator]

    His Pro-RUC agenda is clear for everyone to see.

  • Hill16FantasticView

    P&J
    Can you disprove her findings other than saying she is anti-RUC? Lets see some facts.

  • PeaceandJustice

    Why do we always get reports which are critical of the RUC from the wife of SDLP MLA Declan O’Loan?

    Sinn Fein IRA murdered many people, yet they seem to have got away with it while every one else must have their actions investigated in fine detail. The whole situation was very difficult for the police. Yet they get the most criticism while Sinn Fein IRA death squad members are put into Government – and to question them would ‘not be in the interests of peace’.

    I’m not sure why my comments were edited (we have Shinners slandering DUP ministers on here, but we can’t say anything about Nuala O’Loan?!). I said that no Protestant woman with a Unionist MLA husband would have got that job. And if they did, SF IRA would have tried to hound them out of office. That’s just a fact.

    Nuala O’Loan has a Pan-Nationalist agenda. It has nothing to do with getting to the truth.

  • Sittinghereandwondering

    Yes ‘PeaceandJustice’, NOL has a Pan-Nationalist agenda to the extent that she ensured that the SS/RUC did not deal with the threats against RM..

    My my she really is manipulative..

  • I Wonder

    I wonder if those who used and will use this news item to hit out AGAIN at Nuala O’Loan do so so that they don’t have to actually state their belief that they saw nothing wrong with the killing of Rosemary Nelson in the first instance?

  • Sean

    P&J
    Nuala Oloan remit does not include investigating IRA crimes, her job is to investigate the police so of course she issues some reports critical to the police. she has also issued some reports praising the police but of course you only choose to remember the ones pointing out there malfesance.

    I think she has done very well threading the needle between personal agenda and profesional conduct. This case as she layed it out sounds like a text book case of police misconduct

  • Mick Hall

    Read here,

    ‘Chief Constable attempts to hide behind Public Interest Immunity Certificates.’

    http://organizedrage.blogspot.com/

  • ulsterfan

    Her main complaint is that the enquiry was not handled properly.
    She has said this about other investigations.
    Surely she should explain what a proper enquiry should be so that we may make a comparison, to see the exact failings of the police.
    At the moment her criticism is muted. Has she used the language of collusion, negligence or gross misconduct? If a proper investigation was carried out would the life of Mrs Nelson have been saved? There is no guarantee of this
    Her murder is to be condemned.

  • Sean

    Ulsterfan
    If a proper investigation was carried out would the life of Mrs Nelson have been saved? There is no guarantee of this

    Very true. But we do know that no proper investigation was carried out and Rosemary Nelson did forfeit her life

    .Her main complaint is that the enquiry was not handled properly.
    She has said this about other investigations.
    Surely she should explain what a proper enquiry should be so that we may make a comparison, to see the exact failings of the police.

    I think the nature of her complaints point out exactly where she sees the failing
    1 there was no officer assigned to investigate and gather evidence
    2 there was a lack of co-operation and co-ordination between departments
    3 Documents were with held

  • Sam Hanna

    To be frank, every man and his dog knew that Nelson was a high risk target so what is the big deal. Nelson knew herself and compalined that she was being set up which is why her family and SF are making such a big deal about it post-death.
    Her death was a tragedy like all in this country but let us not pretend that it came out of the blue. She stood smirking beside Colm Duffy every time he got off charges.

    SF are showing the utmost hypocrisy in claiming she was a “Uman rights” activist. She managed a strange bunch of clients for someone so committed to non-violence, peace and reconciliation. Rosemary Nelson made her name representing genocidal killers of Protestants and jumped on any bandwagon to undermine unionism in Mid Ulster. She seemed to wallow in it as far as can be seen from her interviews. Greenpeace/Save the Whales lawyer she was not!

    Anyone that believes that she was perceived as independent in the loyalist community is just kiding themselves. There are many Catholic solicitors in Ulster (in fact too many under Fair Employment laws)so why did the LVF go to the trouble of killing someone who was just a “human rights” lawyer like the thousands of others?

    O’Loan seems to have an insatiable appetite for labelling everything as “collusion.” The disgraceful thing in all of this is that 3,000 other people have died many of them under the orders of the current Deputy First Minister and O’Loan et al do not see fit to talk to him about e.g. the Heggarty murder. If we are going to search for the truth then lets us search for all the truth and jail anyone guilty under it!

  • Fitzy

    I’d have to agree that there is more than a bit of hypocrisy when it comes to how political parties and institutions are searching for truth these days. It just so happens that today, nationalists are (mainly) the ones with the state institutions providing legitimacy to their quests. Nationalists might say that it had been the other way around over the last 35 years or so. Scores of ‘their side’ were framed, coerced into false confessions, set up by state-run murder gangs, etc. How many cops/soldiers/politicians of the time were pursued for these crimes against humanity pre-ceasefire? How many tales of loyalists falling victim to the same treatment have you heard? Few if any.
    This situation will be a difficult one to solve at best, but all of the above fact/opinion/bullshit aside, it shouldn’t undermine the facts delivered by the ombudsman’s investigation.

  • Pete Baker

    Fitzy

    “This situation will be a difficult one to solve at best, but all of the above fact/opinion/bullshit aside, it shouldn’t undermine the facts delivered by the ombudsman’s investigation.”

    Quite. But despite my taking the time to post the actual findings from the Ombudsman’s statement some, if not most, of the commenters above seem to have failed to read them.. or, if they have read them, failed to understand them.

  • Fitzy

    PB –
    i agree. as usual with the contributors on this site, or contributors to any discussion regarding the situation in the north for that matter, tribal instincts win over objectivity.

  • Fitzy

    champions league comes on and the boards go silent… at least we can all agree on some things.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    From the BBC:

    “DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said investigations into the past were highly sensitive and those sensitivities “should be taken into consideration by the ombudsman”.

    Of course… can’t be having actual findings that might hurt someone’s feelings, could we, Jeffrey. Can’t be embaressing anyone by letting the truth out into the light of day…

    From the BBC: “This murder was the work of paramilitaries and we must be careful not to offend the sterling work of the RUC in combating paramilitaries during the Troubles.”

    Which RUC would that be, Jeffrey? The one covering up for Haddock and other UVF killers, protecting their drug and extortion rackets?

    Pete, the reason it gets tribal is because it *IS* tribal, or at least gives every appearance of being so, along with just about everything else, right down to the foolishness coming out of Donaldson’s mouth. The politics are tribal because the major political parties are tribal. If this was poker, N.I. has a hand so ugly you couldn’t make a clubbed foot out of it.

    I’m really starting to miss Ervine… he at least had the nerve to call a spade a spade.

  • Pete Baker

    Dread

    Re-read my actual comment

    “But despite my taking the time to post the actual findings from the Ombudsman’s statement some, if not most, of the commenters above seem to have failed to read them.. or, if they have read them, failed to understand them.”

    The tribal politics is one thing.

    The topic here is the Ombudsman’s findings – Which are in black and white and posted above.

  • Fitzy

    Dread –
    tribal instincts are unnavoidable and somewhat necessary. but when those instinct dominate, or in fact dictact the whole of one’s opinions, leaving no room for objectivity, a situation with little hopes for progress or understanding is created.

    … and I miss old David Ervine too. It’s a pity none of the people in his party who were graced with his presence have the charisma or balls to attempt to fill his shoes. I’d venture to say his untimely death left the biggest void recent irish politics has seen.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Pete: ““But despite my taking the time to post the actual findings from the Ombudsman’s statement some, if not most, of the commenters above seem to have failed to read them.. or, if they have read them, failed to understand them.” ”

    Neither really here nor there, although I don’t disagree.

    The point I was trying to make (poorly, in an exasperated fashion) is that every structure in the rump-statelette is tribal. It is… a bit optimistic to think that the product of these structures and the two parallel societies they created will suddenly have the scales fall from their eyes as a result of simply putting the facts in front of them. There will *ALWAYS* be a reason to discount the facts, even if it comes from a trusted, non-other source, simply because “the truth” has become a zero-sum game in too many minds. (amend my above to *VERY* poorly…)

    So long as the truth remains a zero-sum game, you’re going to get this foolishness. The *REAL* question is how to get everyone off the merry-go-round.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink…

    you can give a partisan the facts, but you can’t make him think.

  • Fitzy

    or… “but when those instincts dominate, or in fact dictate”

  • I Wonder

    “She stood smirking beside Colm Duffy every time he got off charges.”

    So my earlier post is borne out: she “deserved everything she got”, right?

  • Sean

    “She stood smirking beside Colm Duffy every time he got off charges.”

    You mean she might be pleased that she did a good job? Dont you smile when you produce a result on your job?

    Shw was a solicitor it was not her job to decide the innocence or guilt of her client, just to produce the best result she could for her employer. Having done that does not make her a target for sectarian bully boys and ntheir police handlers

  • oh pony

    P&J

    “I said that no Protestant woman with a Unionist MLA husband would have got that job. And if they did, SF IRA would have tried to hound them out of office. That’s just a fact.”

    Firstly, Nuala O’Loan has been Police Ombudsman for nearly 8 years while Declan O’Loan has been an MLA for 6 months.

    Secondly, Declan O’Loan has been an SDLP Councillor for many years, and involved in nationalist politics for many more. However, Nuala O’Loan has never been affiliated to any political organisation. It’s more normal to grant people the possibility of independent thought and action, even if they do happen do be married, where I come from, than to assume conspiracy and intrigue.

    Finally, certain segments of the Unionist community have indeed done their damnedest to hound Nuala O’Loan out of office, from the Police Federation and Retired Police Officers Assoc., who have obstructed and objected to the Ombudsman’s role since its inception, and certain politicians including Ken Maginnis, with his infamous “suicide bomber” comments, and a certain politial heir apparent with a predilection for lobster fishing.

    Amidst all the vitriol here and elsewhere, it’s interesting to note that the statistics revealed in the annual reports published by the Police Ombudsman, show clearly that belief in the independence and impartiality of the Ombudsman is high in both the Unionist and Nationalist communities, and has grown with each year of the Office’s operation.