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Stevens Enquiry: Overview and Recommendations, 17 April 2003
Text: John Stevens ... Page Compiled Martin Melaugh
Stevens Enquiry: Overview and Recommendations, 17 April 2003
Sir John Stevens QPM, DL
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service
Chapter one: Introduction
1.1 I have carried out three Enquiries into allegations of collusion between the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. These began
nearly fourteen years ago and continue to this day. I believe the time is now
right to make some important recommendations. These arise from serious
shortcomings I have identified from all three Enquiries.
1.2 I intend to take a twin-track approach, publishing these recommendations whilst
allowing the specific criminal investigations to continue. These will be submitted
to the Director of Public Prosecutions (NI). Some major lines of enquiry are still
in the early stages of investigation.
1.3 My Enquiries have highlighted collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the
absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the
extreme of agents being involved in murder. These serious acts and omissions
have meant that people have been killed or seriously injured.
1.4 This report will also detail how my Enquiries have been obstructed.
Terms of Reference
1.5 In May 1999, following a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions (NI) to
the then Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Sir Ronnie Flanagan,
I was asked to re-investigate the murder of Patrick Finucane and allegations of
collusion raised by British Irish Rights Watch.
1.6 The significance of the role played by an RUC informant William Stobie in events
surrounding the murder of Patrick Finucane led to two principal, further matters
being added to my remit. Firstly I undertook to re-investigate the murder in November 1987 of a young student Brian Adam Lambert and secondly to
examine certain issues surrounding the handling of agents.
1.7 The task of preventing terrorist attacks by paramilitary groups from either side
of the community in Northern Ireland is acknowledged to be one of the most
complex policing challenges in the United Kingdom. Conventional roles and
duties are overlaid with the need to respond to the ever-present threat from
terrorism. The scale of this challenge is highlighted by the fact that during the
three years primarily covered by this report, 1987 to 1989, the RUC dealt with
over 3,000 terrorist related incidents of which 261 were deaths related to the
1.8 My third Enquiry has focussed in detail on only two of those murders, and a
small number of related agent case histories. In doing so it has worked and
continues to work at all times to provide evidence to satisfy the prosecution test.
It has also, like my two previous Enquiries, always operated from the premise
that those involved in policing and security duties in Northern Ireland work to
and are subject to the rule of law.
1.9 My recommendations cover the collection and use of intelligence, the use of
agents, standards of investigation and the prevention of collusion. Some of the
recommendations I made in my first report are still relevant. I re-emphasise the
importance of their implementation. I also propose some new recommendations
concerning the future policing of Northern Ireland.
1.10 The publication of this report is later than I had originally hoped. This delay is
due to a number of factors. Firstly, as has already been mentioned, new terms
of reference were added to the original remit of my Enquiry.
1.11 Secondly last November a considerable amount of additional documentation
from the Ministry of Defence, giving rise to several new and major lines of
enquiry, became available to the Enquiry team for the first time. I record this
late disclosure with considerable disquiet. I had encountered the same problem
of late disclosure during my two previous Enquiries and expressed then my
strong concerns surrounding the issue.
Chapter two: Outline of events investigated by the Enquiry Team
The Murder of Patrick Finucane
2.1 Patrick Finucane was murdered in front of his wife and three children in his
home on Sunday 12th February 1989. He was 39 years old and worked as a
solicitor in Belfast. Mr Finucane was shot fourteen times by two masked gunmen
who entered his house in the early evening. The gunmen escaped in a red Ford
Sierra motor vehicle driven by an accomplice. The following day the Ulster
Freedom Fighters (UFF) claimed responsibility for the murder.
2.2 Two guns were used in the attack, the majority of shots fired from a 9mm-P
Browning. This firearm was recovered approximately five months later. It was
found to be one of a number of guns stolen in August 1987 from an Ulster
Defence Regiment barracks. It had already been used in an attempted murder a
few months before the murder of Patrick Finucane. Five men were arrested in
connection with the recovery of the weapon and three were later charged. The
second gun, a .38 Special or a .357 Magnum revolver, was later used in another
attempted murder in 1991. That weapon has never been recovered.
2.3 A number of other suspects were identified and arrested by the RUC but by
November 1989 the murder remained unsolved and the investigation had
effectively ceased. However in 1990 a journalist, Mr Neil Mulholland, provided new
information about the Finucane murder from a man claiming to be both a
quartermaster for the Ulster Defence Association and an agent of the RUC Special
Branch. This man was William Stobie. He also admitted to Mulholland that he had
supplied the murder weapon that had killed another man, Brian Adam Lambert.
The Murder of Brian Adam Lambert
2.4 Brian Adam Lambert had been shot on 9th November 1987 at a building site in
Belfast. He was a young Protestant student with no criminal record or links to
terrorism. It is believed he was mistakenly targeted in revenge for the
Remembrance Day bombing at Enniskillen the day before. One man was
charged and convicted for the offence of conspiring to murder Brian Adam
William Alfred Stobie
2.5 Stobie was recruited as an agent by the RUC Special Branch in November 1987
following his arrest for the murder of Brian Adam Lambert for which he was
released without charge. He was tasked by Special Branch until 1990 when as a
result of Mulholland's information he was arrested by the RUC for the Finucane
and Lambert murders. Mulholland, however, refused to sign a statement. This
fact was highlighted in a file submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions
(NI) recommending non-prosecution.
2.6 As the UDA quartermaster of the West Belfast Brigade, Stobie had continued to
be involved in the storage and supply of weapons several months after the
murder of Patrick Finucane. His activities, whilst an agent, clearly indicate his
central role in the commission of serious offences from at least July 1988
2.7 It has now been established that before the murder of Patrick Finucane, Stobie
supplied information of a murder being planned. He also provided significant
information to his Special Branch handlers in the days after the murder. This
principally concerned the collection of a firearm. However this vital information
did not reach the original murder enquiry team and remains a significant issue
under investigation by my Enquiry team.
2.8 Stobie was arrested by my third Enquiry team and charged with the murder of
Patrick Finucane and Brian Adam Lambert. The case concluded at Belfast Crown
Court in November 2001 when the key prosecution witness, Neil Mulholland,
who had by then signed a witness statement, failed to give evidence on account
of his mental state. Two weeks later Stobie was shot dead. His murder was
claimed by the loyalist terrorist group the 'Red Hand Defenders'. Stobie's
murder, and his refusal to accept protection beforehand, is a matter that has
been investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
2.9 My Enquiry team arrested three of the original suspects for the murder of Patrick
Finucane and nine other men were arrested for the first time on suspicion of
murder. None of those arrested could be linked forensically to the scene of the
Finucane murder. No admissible evidence has been obtained to enable any
person to be charged. I believe however that all played a significant role in the
murder of Patrick Finucane or the events surrounding it. This part of my Enquiry
is still ongoing.
2.10 Similarly five men were arrested by the Enquiry team on suspicion of the murder
of Brian Adam Lambert. No-one, other than William Stobie, has been charged
with his murder because of a lack of evidence to satisfy the prosecution test.
Investigation of Agents
2.11 My Enquiry team also examined the role of agents, now known as Covert Human
Intelligence Sources (CHIS), active around the time of both murders. In
particular it reviewed William Stobie's and Brian Nelson's roles in the murder of
Patrick Finucane. Nelson, an Army agent, had been identified as a suspect
during my first Enquiry. He was charged with thirty-five serious terrorist offences
and later convicted. He was imprisoned for ten years. He was the subject of my
second Enquiry. This investigated additional allegations concerning his role as
highlighted in the 1992 Panorama documentary entitled ' Dirty War'.
2.12 As in the case of Stobie all the available intelligence was assessed. Nelson was
aware and contributed materially to the intended attack on Finucane. It is not
clear whether his role in the murder extended beyond passing a photograph,
which showed Finucane and another person, to one of the other suspects.
Nelson was re-arrested and interviewed. There was no new evidence and he
was not charged with any further offences.
2.13 Brian Nelson's role also raised a number of issues arising from the work of the
Force Research Unit (FRU), the Army's agent-handling unit in Northern Ireland.
My Enquiry team investigated allegations made by several former members of
the FRU. They reviewed and analysed all material relating to the FRU's
operational activity. Twenty former members of the FRU were interviewed and
files seeking legal advice in relation to nine of them have been prepared. New
material uncovered since the publication of my last report has shed further light
on this matter. These enquiries are still ongoing.
2.14 My Enquiry team has undertaken the forensic examination of a wealth of
material recovered from the loyalist paramilitary groups, particularly that
belonging to Nelson. The advance in forensic technology has resulted in
identification of eighty-one people who had left their fingerprints on classified
documents that they had no lawful reason to possess. Twenty-seven have been
arrested and interviewed. Application of the prosecution test led to six persons being charged and convicted in relation to possession of documents likely to be of use to terrorists. The remaining twenty-one cases failed to satisfy the prosecution test.
Other Matters Concerning Collusion
2.15 One of the major issues for my Enquiry, underpinning virtually all aspects of the
individual investigations, was the allegation of widespread collusion between the
loyalist paramilitaries, the RUC and Army. My Enquiry team investigated these
allegations. Many were contained in the British Irish RIGHTS WATCH report
'Deadly Intelligence - State involvement in loyalist murder in Northern Ireland'
including the allegation that the RUC had incited the death of Patrick Finucane.
2.16 My Enquiry attempted to establish whether Mr Finucane had been threatened by
loyalist paramilitaries, or RUC officers, and whether he had made any formal
complaint. The absence of any record means that this criminal allegation cannot
be substantiated against any RUC officer.
2.17 My Enquiry team also investigated an allegation that senior RUC officers briefed
the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, the
Rt Hon Douglas Hogg QC, MP, that 'some solicitors were unduly sympathetic to
the cause of the IRA'. Mr Hogg repeated this view during a debate on the
Prevention of Terrorism legislation in the House of Commons. Within a few
weeks Patrick Finucane was murdered. Mr Hogg's comments about solicitors'
support for terrorism made on 17th January 1989 aroused controversy. To the
extent that they were based on information passed by the RUC, they were not
justifiable and the Enquiry concludes that the Minister was compromised.
2.18 A further aspect of my Enquiry was how the RUC dealt with threat intelligence.
This included examination and analysis of RUC records to determine whether
both sides of the community were dealt with in equal measure. They were not.
Chapter three: Obstruction of my Enquiries
3.1 Throughout my three Enquiries I recognised that I was being obstructed. This
obstruction was cultural in its nature and widespread within parts of the Army
and the RUC. I am confident that through the investigative efforts of my Enquiry
team, I have managed to overcome it and achieve the overall objectives of
3.2 I gave details in my first report of the obstruction I encountered during my first
Enquiry. I recount these details now as their significance has grown as a result
of more recent disclosures.
3.3 It was only through the investigative efforts of my Enquiry team that I was able
to identify and arrest the Army agent Brian Nelson in January 1990. When he
was interviewed I discovered that he had been in possession of an ‘intelligence
dump'. This had been seized by his FRU handlers when my first Enquiry had
begun, in September 1989. This crucial evidence had been concealed from my
3.4 There was a clear breach of security before the planned arrest of Nelson and
other senior loyalists. Information was leaked to the loyalist paramilitaries and
the press. This resulted in the operation being aborted. Nelson was advised by
his FRU handlers to leave home the night before. A new date was set for the
operation on account of the leak. The night before the new operation my
Incident room was destroyed by fire. This incident, in my opinion, has never
been adequately investigated and I believe it was a deliberate act of arson.
3.5 During my first Enquiry I asked to examine particular documents but received
written statements that they did not exist. My latest Enquiry team has now
recovered all these documents. The dates recorded on them show that they all
existed at the time of my first request. Much of the effort of this Enquiry has had, yet again, to be spent building up its own intelligence database and in so
doing discovering that it has not been given a full and proper disclosure.
3.6 Following three recent, major disclosures by the Army and the Ministry of
Defence I am investigating whether the concealment of documents and
information was sanctioned and if so at what levels of the organisations holding
them. It has been necessary to interview the same witnesses a number of times
because of the failure to provide complete information at the first time of asking.
3.7 I have spoken recently with senior management from the organisations
concerned. I am now satisfied that matters have improved and will continue to do so.
Chapter four: Conclusion
4.1 My third Enquiry began on 19th April 1999. It has, in conjunction with my two
previous Enquiries been the largest investigation undertaken in the United
Kingdom. During the course of these three Enquiries 9,256 statements have
been taken, 10,391 documents recorded (totalling over 1 million pages) and 16,194 exhibits seized.
4.2 This has led to 144 arrests. So far 94 persons have been convicted. To date 57 separate reports have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (NI)
for his direction. These reports contain the detail of my three Enquiries.
4.3 My recommendations cover the operation of all the security forces in Northern
Ireland. They should not be seen in isolation. There have been a number of
other reports published in the intervening years since my first Enquiry. The Army
undertook a review of their agent handling operations after my first Enquiry had
uncovered the criminality of the Army's agent, Brian Nelson. This resulted in the
Blelloch report, which established specific guidelines for such operations. More
recent reports include the Patten report (1999) on the future of policing in
Northern Ireland, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland report on the
Omagh bombing (2001) and the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of
Constabulary into the Police Service of Northern Ireland Special Branch (2002).
My recommendations complement and support those contained in them.
4.4 The recommendations arising from my first report and the Blelloch report,
together with the recommendations of this report, should be independently
reviewed and audited within an agreed time frame.
4.5 My recommendations draw on the information uncovered by my three Enquiries,
carried out over the past fourteen years. In most cases the facts have been clearly established; in others the evidence is contradictory and therefore
incapable of resolution.
4.6 I have uncovered enough evidence to lead me to believe that the murders of
Patrick Finucane and Brian Adam Lambert could have been prevented. I also
believe that the RUC investigation of Patrick Finucane's murder should have
resulted in the early arrest and detection of his killers.
4.7 I conclude there was collusion in both murders and the circumstances
surrounding them. Collusion is evidenced in many ways. This ranges from the
wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of
intelligence and evidence, through to the extreme of agents being involved
4.8 The failure to keep records or the existence of contradictory accounts can often
be perceived as evidence of concealment or malpractice. It limits the opportunity
to rebut serious allegations. The absence of accountability allows the acts or
omissions of individuals to go undetected. The withholding of information
impedes the prevention of crime and the arrest of suspects. The unlawful
involvement of agents in murder implies that the security forces sanction killings.
4.9 My three Enquiries have found all these elements of collusion to be present. The
co-ordination, dissemination and sharing of intelligence were poor. Informants
and agents were allowed to operate without effective control and to participate
in terrorist crimes. Nationalists were known to be targeted but were not properly
warned or protected. Crucial information was withheld from Senior Investigating
Officers. Important evidence was neither exploited nor preserved.
4.10 My enquiries with regard to satisfying the test for prosecution in relation to
possible offences arising out of these matters are continuing.
The Following Recommendations Are Made:
1. The National Intelligence Model should be introduced into the Police
Service of Northern Ireland and supported by the necessary Information
2. The PSNI should carry out a full review of all their procedures for
investigating terrorist offences with a view to establishing a dedicated
unit along the lines of the Metropolitan Police model (this was
recommended in my first report).
3. An Assistant Chief Constable with single responsibility for the Anti-
Terrorist Branch should be appointed and be answerable directly to the
4. There should be Service Level Agreements between all departments and
external partner agencies to ensure clarity and understanding of each
5. The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) of murder and other serious
crimes should receive full co-operation and relevant intelligence from
Special Branch particularly where Covert Human Intelligence Sources
(CHIS) are suspects for murder or other serious crime.
6. Any conflict between the investigation of crime and the protection of
agents should be managed through a decision making process overseen
by the Regional Assistant Chief Constable.
7. Regionally based Special Branch officers should come under the
command of the Regional Assistant Chief Constable.
8. All Regional Special Branch officers of Detective Inspector rank and
above should attend the Senior Investigating Officer's course.
9. A pre-requisite for selection to Special Branch should be evidence of
10. Guidelines on the use of CHIS in countering terrorism should be
completed as a matter of urgency. These must take account of the
existing Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.
11. An internal strategic review should be undertaken to ensure that CHIS
are only employed to achieve a proportionate coverage of the terrorist
12. A full review of training for all agent handlers should be introduced,
including integrity issues and the keeping of records.
13. The investigation of murder should be carried out in accordance with
the Association of Chief Police Officers' (ACPO) guidelines on Homicide
14. Senior Investigating Officers should attend the nationally accredited SIO
course and receive critical incident training on scenarios relevant to
15. The PSNI should carry out a full review of all their methods and
processes of exhibit management.
16. An overarching strategy group of all relevant agencies (Gold group)
should be formed at the outset of any major investigation to ensure
effective intelligence sharing and to respond to community concerns.
17. All Senior Investigating Officers dealing with terrorist murders must be
adequately vetted in order that they can receive and deal with any
18. An internal investigation department should be established by the PSNI
in order that any allegations or suspicions of collusion and corruption
can be tackled proactively as well as reactively.
19. Integrity testing and Quality Assurance checks should be carried out to
ensure that complete confidence is maintained in the security of source
20. A senior liaison committee should support future Enquiries of this
nature. This should include senior representation from those agencies
involved to ensure proper disclosure and accountability in the decision
21. An independent audit and review of my recommendations relating to the Army and the PSNI should be undertaken within an agreed time frame. This process should include recommendations arising from the Blelloch report.
Glossary of Terms
RUC Royal Ulster Constabulary
DPP(NI) Director of Public Prosecution (Northern Ireland)
PSNI Police Service of Northern Ireland
BIRW British Irish Rights Watch
UFF Ulster Freedom Fighters
UDR Ulster Defence Regiment
UDA Ulster Defence Association
CHIS Covert Human Intelligence Source
FRU Force Research Unit
SIO Senior Investigating Officer
ACPO Association of Chief Police Officers
ACC Assistant Chief Constable
PONI Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland
HMIC Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary
IT Information Technology
SB Special Branch
DI Detective Inspector
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