Rosemary Nelson Inquiry Report

The Rosemary Nelson Inquiry report has been published [pdf file].  As the BBC headline notes, the inquiry found there was “‘no collusion’ in murder”.  But their home affairs correspondent, Vincent Kearney, adds

The government and police will be relieved at one level at the finding that there was no direct collusion.

However there are enough grounds for concern because the report points to a very negative view of Rosemary Nelson which it says may have contributed to making her a target in the eyes of loyalists.

The Guardian carries the PA report which notes

Before her death on 15 March 1999, the lawyer who worked on a number of controversial cases including those of suspected republican terrorists, had alleged police intimidation.

Those claims gained international attention and the report found police had made “abusive and threatening remarks” about the solicitor.

The public inquiry found that the state “failed to take reasonable and proportionate steps to safeguard the life of Rosemary Nelson”.

And from the report’s conclusions [pdf file]

Our Terms of Reference required us ‘To inquire into the death of Rosemary Nelson witha view to determining whether any wrongful act or omission by or within the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland Office, Army or other state agency facilitated her death or obstructed the investigation of it; whether any such act was intentional or negligent; whether the investigation of her death was carried out with due diligence; and to make recommendations.

We have taken as our starting point the UN’s ‘Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers’, adopted in 1990. They include:

‘Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be safeguarded by the authorities.’

The context in which all the state agencies were operating was extraordinarily difficult. We do not underestimate the problems and personal danger faced by the individuals whose work we have been examining.

There is no evidence of any act by or within any of the state agencies we have examined (the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), the Army or the Security Service) which directly facilitated Rosemary Nelson’s murder. But we cannot exclude the possibility of a rogue member or members of the RUC or the Army in some way assisting the murderers to target Rosemary Nelson. In addition:

• We are sure that some members of the RUC publicly abused and assaultedRosemary Nelson on the Garvaghy Road in Portadown in 1997, having the effect of legitimising her as a target.

• We believe that there was some leakage of intelligence which we believe found its way outside the RUC. Whether the intelligence was correct or not, the leakage increased the danger to Rosemary Nelson’s life.

• We believe that some members of the RUC made abusive and/or threatening remarks about Rosemary Nelson to her clients. This became publicly known and would have had the subsequent effect of legitimising her as a target in the eyes of Loyalist terrorists.

There were omissions by state agencies, which rendered her more at risk and more vulnerable. The two agencies of the state that had ample knowledge of Rosemary Nelson were the RUC and the NIO.

The BBC are also collated responses to the inquiry’s report.

Adds  As the Northern Ireland Secretary of State notes in his statement.

The panel has chosen not to make any recommendations, pointing to “fundamental changes to the organisations that we have been examining and to the context within which they worked”.

In particular the panel notes that:

“The Royal Ulster Constabulary has now been replaced by the PSNI, on the lines envisaged by the Patten Commission.  Many of the reforms were first proposed, and subsequently implemented, by Sir Ronnie Flanagan.”

“Complaints against the police are now investigated by the independent Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland, so the PSNI is not in the position of having to investigate complaints about its own officers.”

“After the murder of Rosemary Nelson, the Key Persons Protection Scheme was amended: defence solicitors were included among those who could qualify for the scheme.“

The report concludes that “we consider that these changes effectively deal with the systemic problems that we saw in the way that the organisations operated”.