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Northern Ireland Policing Board Press Release: DCC Tonge Presents Final Omagh Report, 4 April 2003



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Text Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB) ... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn

Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB) Press Release
DCC Tonge Presents Final Omagh Report, 4 April 2003

The Policing Board today (4th April) received the final report from Merseyside Deputy Chief Constable Mike Tonge, the officer appointed by the Board in May 2002 to oversee and progress recommendations made in the Board's statement on the Omagh Reports.

At today's meeting, DCC Tonge, provided the Board with a report on the delivery of his terms of reference and an assessment of the current state of the ongoing investigation. His terms of reference included:

  • Examining the resource and skills levels needed to satisfactorily conclude the investigation.
  • Undertaking a quality assurance role and monitoring progress in the investigation including implementation of the Omagh Bomb Review Report.
  • Enhancing working practices with An Garda Siochana in relation to the Omagh Bomb investigation and linked inquiries.

D/Chief Superintendent Phil Jones, the External Senior Investigating officer appointed by the PSNI, also reported to the Board on his terms of reference. ACC Sam Kinkaid, the Senior PSNI officer in charge of the investigation, along with the PSNI Senior Investigating Officer, Norman Baxter, updated Members on next phase of the investigation.

Commenting on the report and the role performed by DCC Tonge, Policing Board Chairman, Professor Desmond Rea, said,

" This was a difficult and challenging task but the Board believed that unique circumstances demanded a unique solution. From the outset, the Board wanted to satisfy itself, and the wider community, that all the opportunities for prosecutions arising out of the Omagh investigation were maximized and that all lessons arising from the Omagh Reports have been learnt.

"The model agreed by the Board in its Omagh statement satisfied both the need for continuity in the investigation whilst injecting crucial independent elements.

"DCC Tonge's role, on behalf of the Board, was to oversee and progress specific recommendations arising from the Board's statement on the Omagh Reports and today's report represents the completion of that task."

In his final briefing to the Board, DCC Tonge provided a comprehensive overview of the work undertaken by all the officers involved in the investigation, and the specific role of the External Senior Officer, D/Chief Superintendent Phil Jones, in meeting the terms of reference agreed.

Commenting on the extent of the areas covered, Professor Rea said,

"It is clear that a substantial amount of work has been completed and positive working relationships established on all sides. The Board is satisfied that significant progress has been made in moving forward the investigation and the wider community should be assured that issues of concern previously identified have now been fully addressed.

"The Report presented to the Board today, gives strength to the investigation completed to date and should provide confidence and reassurance to the wider community that the necessary focus, commitment and resources have been made available to tackle the issues raised by an investigation of this scale and nature."

DCC Tonge has provided regular briefings to the Board on progress in implementing his Terms of Reference and the Board is satisfied that they have been fully discharged. A number of issues raised in the Report will require further action and the Board will continue to monitor this investigation through discussion with the Chief Constable and the officers responsible for progressing it.

"In his report, DCC Tonge has concluded, that with the continued commitment of Sam Kinkaid, Norman Baxter and the team of officers involved in the investigation, the positive momentum built up over the last year ensures that the investigation remains live and viable."

Speaking about future opportunities for prosecutions, Professor Rea continued "Clearly this is a live investigation and it is the Board's sincere hope that those who perpetrated this dreadful atrocity are brought to justice for their actions."

At the meeting Board Members were also briefed by ACC Sam Kinkaid, who agreed to report to the Board on a quarterly basis on progress with moving forward the investigation.

The Board will also continue to monitor other recommendations it made that require action.

The Board put on record its thanks to DCC Tonge, D/Chief Superintendent Jones, the Merseyside Police Authority, the Merseyside Police, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, ACC Kinkaid and SIO Baxter for all their help and cooperation. Professor Rea, stated "that it had been a difficult time and it is a credit to all involved, and their personal efforts, that the work has been completed so successfully."

He also extended the Board's thanks to all the PSNI officers involved "for their continued commitment and dedication to achieving a successful outcome to this investigation."

Ends.

For further information contact Lorraine Calvert on 028 9040 8541 or mobile 07810 5210 52 or Mark Smith on 028 9040 8538 or mobile 07710 450 462 at the Northern Ireland Policing Board Press Office.


Notes to Editors

1. The Northern Ireland Policing Board's statement on its Recommendations on the Omagh Reports was made on 7th February 2002.

2. A copy of the Report presented to the Board has been attached. The terms of reference for the appointment of DCC Tonge and D/Chief Superintendent Jones are attached as an appendix to the Report.

3. The Corporate Policy Committee of the Policing Board is responsible for monitoring all follow up action arising from the Omagh Recommendations. Progress on implementing the other recommendations arising from the Board's Statement on Omagh is summarised below.

Review of Terrorist Linked Murder Inquiries

The PSNI accepted the recommendation that Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC) conduct a full review of terrorist linked murder enquiries with a view to reporting on structure, resources, strategies, policies, practices and processes. HMIC has completed his review and the Board awaits sight of his report on that review and the Chief Constable's views on any recommendations he may make.

Murder Review Procedures

The PSNI have adopted the Association of Chief Police Officers policy with regard to murder reviews and are committed to implementing it. The Board continues to monitor progress in establishing the murder teams that are necessary to give effect to this recommendation.

Management and Dissemination of Intelligence.

The focused review into the management and dissemination of intelligence between Special Branch and other parts of the PSNI was completed by Sir Dan Crompton and presented to the Board in November 2002. The Chief Constable accepted the recommendations made and the Board continues to monitor their implementation.

Relationships between the PSNI and the Police Ombudsman's Office

This recommendation centres around relationships and protocols. The Board considered that lessons could be learned for the handling of such issues in the future.
This included arrangements for the appropriate review of draft reports, as to factual accuracy, and for individuals to see and respond to content as necessary before circulation of the final report. The Board also considered that, as with current policing arrangements, there should be a review mechanism for the work of the Police Ombudsman.

This recommendation lies within the remit of the Northern Ireland office. Government decided to await the outcome of a Judicial Review into the processes adopted by the Police Ombudsman before progressing this recommendation. This Review was concluded recently and the NIO has now written to the Board seeking Member's views on how this recommendation could best be implemented.

Ends - Report follows


Omagh Bomb Enquiry
Report for Policing Board
April, 2003

Introduction

At approximately 3.05pm on Saturday, 15th August, 1998, a vehicle born incendiary explosive device, exploded in the small county town of Omagh, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Police Officers were in the process of clearing the streets, as a consequence of earlier warning calls, when the bomb exploded killing twenty-nine people and two unborn children. Two hundred and fifty people were injured, some seriously, and there was extensive damage to property. It is considered to be the worst terrorist incident since the start of "The Troubles" in 1969.

The Royal Ulster Constabulary established an enquiry which it subsequently decided to formally review in the year 2000. On 12th December, 2001 the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland published their report into the conduct of this investigation. To date there remains profoundly different and strongly held views about the investigation, review and Police Ombudsman's report.

On Monday, 28th January, 2002 under the supervision of Deputy Chief Constable Michael TONGE, Detective Chief Superintendent Philip JONES and Detective Chief Inspector Clifford EVANS commenced their duties within Northern Ireland and quickly established a professional working relationship with the then senior investigating officer, his deputy and their enquiry team.

An absolute priority was understanding the product contained in the following documentation:

i) The HOLMES account (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) 1998 - 2002.
ii) The REVIEW Document and its many recommendations.
iii) The Ombudsman's Report and associated intelligence.
iv) Documentation prepared by the Police Service of Northern Ireland in response to (iii).

Parallel to this was the establishment and maintenance of viable working relationships within the Police Service of Northern Ireland and across the broad spectrum of associated agencies.

On Sunday, 5th May, 2002 the Police Ombudsman's Office advised the enquiry team as to a number of disclosures made to their office by a Detective Sergeant from An Garda Siochana. These matters remain under investigation by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

On Thursday, 16th May, 2002, the 'Terms of Reference' were agreed between the Policing Board for Northern Ireland, the Merseyside Police Authority, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary and the two Chief Constables. These 'Terms of Reference' are appended as at 'A'.

Appropriately, these 'Terms of Reference' sought to move the enquiry forward and maximise the evidential opportunities from within the current enquiry whilst paying due regard to similar offences within Northern Ireland during 1998. The role of the External Senior Officer depicted seven specific areas of responsibility which I propose to address as follows:

1. Scrutinising the current enquiry and the Omagh Bomb Review Report to ensure that all opportunities to gather evidence are maximised and that all recommendations relating to the Omagh investigation are fully addressed.

An extensive process has been carried out by the PSNI enquiry team specifically addressing those recommendations which might provide evidential opportunities. That process is complete and the product is contained within the HOLMES (Home Office Large Major Enquiry System) incident room.

Identified strategic issues such as non-adherence to MIRSAP (Major Incident Room Standard Administrative Procedures) are being dealt with as part of the ongoing development required within the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Merseyside Police's examination of specific aspects of the HOLMES account, in line with the broader investigative focus, will provide the Senior Investigating Officer and his deputy with a foundation from which they will be able to review and identify relevant evidential material. The identified programme of work will ensure completeness and provide reassurance.

2. Exploring any outstanding lines of enquiry into potentially linked incidents identified in the Omagh Bomb Review Report.

Historically bombings would pursue normal evidential opportunities and legitimately include criteria such as:

Codeword
Modus Operandi
Bomb Type
Timer Power Unit
Dissident Trace
Terrorist Group

However, the strategic intelligence picture for 1998 clearly illustrates a fluid situation, whereby terrorists were migrating from one group to another as a consequence of Sinn Fein supporting the Good Friday Agreement on 18th April, 1998. It was an unsettled time with strong indications that Dissident Republican groups were prepared to actively support each other primarily to establish their own credibility, capability and resistance to aspects of the developing peace process.

It is of significance that on Tuesday, 18th August, 1998 the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) issued two statements, the first claiming responsibility for the Omagh attack, blaming the security forces for failing to respond to their warnings adequately and apologising to the casualties. The second claiming to have intended to attack a 'commercial target'.

It was clear where the investigative focus should be and evident that the adoption of the above outlined criteria wasn't as significant as it had once been, particularly when these Dissident groups were primarily based in the Republic of Ireland. The solution to this dilemma was to rely exclusively on:

i) The good evidence gathered to date
ii) Apply suspect specific criteria
iii) Graded intelligence.

A review by the Senior Investigating Officer identified twenty-nine terrorist offences in 1998 of which a number contained definitive evidential opportunities.

Consequently, Merseyside officers undertook to carry out a comprehensive intelligence review of Omagh and the identified offences in an effort to identify those that were relevant.

3. Advising on the relevance of the investigative opportunities presented in connection with similar offences perpetrated in Northern Ireland in 1998.

The intelligence review, in stages, has illustrated a number of offences as relevant to the Omagh Bomb enquiry and verified the core participating terrorists.

Parallel activity adopted by the Senior Investigating Officer has identified evidential opportunities which the PSNI are pursuing.

4. Advising as to whether or not any such offences should be investigated separately or absorbed into the ongoing investigation.

The Senior Investigating Officer through the processes of the Management Board (set up within the Terms of Reference) now has investigative control of those associated enquiries and is in the process of taking possession and control of all available related material so that the ensuing evidential opportunities can be maximised. ACC North, who chairs the Management Board, has strategic responsibility for these investigations no matter which Region they are in. It is felt that these offences will provide a broader investigative base on which this group of terrorists can be viably investigated for their actions in 1998.

5. Advising on whether or not the appointment of another officer to investigate these incidents is appropriate.

Appropriate consideration has been given to the format required to successfully investigate these additional offences. At present it is essential that ownership should remain with the current Management Board comprising ACC North and the Senior Investigating Officer who will then be able to apply consistent action to each offence in an effort to gather all available evidence relevant to the potential Conspiracy offence.

6. Identify any obstacles to progress.

All parties within the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the associated agencies have proven to be helpful and constructive in support of moving this enquiry forward and maximising the intelligence and associated evidential opportunities.

Continued unwanted media coverage is a concern and should it persist, has real potential to further undermine what is considered to be a viable investigative process.

7. The External Senior Officer should have access to all investigation relevant intelligence.

As outlined co-operation has been positive, the officers are satisfied that within this jurisdiction all relevant intelligence has been or is being considered.

Signed: P.G. JONES Det.Ch.Supt.
Signed: C. EVANS Det.Ch.Insp.
Date 4th April 2003

 


Terms Of Reference Agreed On 16th May 2002

The following arrangements have been agreed between the Policing Board, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Merseyside Police Authority and the Chief Constable of Merseyside Police in relation to the investigation into the Omagh Bomb.

1. The Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland is responsible for ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to bring the offenders to justice. Section 32(1)(D) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 refers.

2. A Management Board will be created to ensure that the investigation is run to the highest standards and that the External Senior Officer (ESO) from Merseyside Police is given the fullest support. The membership of the Board will be:

ACC North Region (Chair)
ESO and Deputy
SIO and Deputy

The Management Board will ensure that processes are put in place to, amongst other matters:

A. Liaise closely with the relatives

B. Liaise with other statutory agencies who have material relevant to the Enquiry.

C. Ensure that the ESO is able to fully carry out his responsibilities as laid out in the statement of the NIPB of 7th February 2002.

D. Brief the Chief Constable of the PSNI and the Deputy Chief Constable appointed by the Policing Board on developments.


3. ACC North Region will have a reporting line to the Chief Constable and in matters under the Terms of Reference to the Deputy Chief Constable from Merseyside police appointed by the Policing Board. ACC North Region will be required to report to the Corporate Policy Committee of the Policing Board on a bi-monthly basis and to the Board generally as required.

4. ACC North Region and the Senior Investigating Officer will have responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the Omagh Review Report. The officers from Merseyside will quality assure this task in line with their responsibilities under the statement of the NIPB of 7 February 2002.

5. The Senior Investigating Officer from the Police Service of Northern Ireland will have operational control of the investigation, with a direct reporting line to ACC North Region and a reporting line to the DCC appointed by the Policing Board on matters under his Terms of Reference.

6. The ESO will have responsibility for:

  • Scrutinising the current enquiry and the Omagh Bomb Review Report to ensure that all opportunities to gather evidence are maximised and that all recommendations relating to the Omagh investigation are fully addressed.
  • Exploring any outstanding lines of enquiry into potentially linked incidents identified in the Omagh Bomb Review Report.
  • Advising on the relevance of the investigative opportunities presented in connection with similar offences perpetrated in Northern Ireland in 1998.
  • Advising as to whether or not any such offences should be investigated separately or absorbed into the ongoing investigation.
  • Advising on whether or not the appointment of another officer to investigate these incidents is appropriate.
  • Identify any obstacles to progress.
  • The ESO should have access to all investigation relevant intelligence.

The ESO will be given direct access to the Chief Constable in respect of any matter of concern and will have a direct reporting line to ACC North but also the Chief Constable as identified above.

7. The DCC appointed by the Policing Board will, without operational control, have an overview of all matters. His role will be as follows:

  • To critically examine the resource and skill levels needed to satisfactorily conclude the investigation.
  • To undertake a quality assurance role, with particular reference to the content of the Omagh Bomb Review Report.
  • To monitor progress in the investigation including the implementation of the Omagh Bomb Review Report.
  • To identify any obstacles standing in the way of strategic guidance to the Board in relation to its responsibilities
  • To report to the Board at agreed intervals on the progress of PSNI's enquiry.

As outlined within the proposed Schedule, matters of particular significance would be communicated early, as necessary.


8. The Police Service of Northern Ireland will retain responsibility for and ownership of:

the investigation of the Omagh bombing or connected incidents..
the receipt of intelligence or evidence in relation to any such matters,
the liaison with the Omagh families,
dialogue and liaison with the Garda Siochana,
dialogue and liaison with the Ombudsman's Office.

Merseyside Police will act in a supportive and advisory capacity in pursuit of the above.

Signed :

Chairman Northern Ireland Policing Board: Professor Desmond Rea

Chairman Merseyside Police Authority: Carol Gustafson

Chief Constable Merseyside Police: Norman Bettison

Chief Constable, PSNI: Sam Kinkaid for CC

HMI Northern Ireland: Dan Crompton

 


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