THE RUC was cleared yesterday of any financial liability arising out of the killing of three men by a deranged policeman in west Belfast five years ago.
In the High Court in Belfast Mr Justice Pringle held that the force had no duty of care to the three men shot dead by constable Allen Moore (24), in Sinn Fein offices on February 4 1992.
The judge said that having regard to the large number of unidentifiable potential victims, there was no special relationship between the victims and the police. Patrick Loughran (60), Michael O’Dwyer (21) and Patrick McBride (40) were killed when constable Moore opened up with his pump-action shotgun which he later turned on himself. Mr Justice Pringle dismissed appeals against a Master’s decision to strike out compensation claims against the RUC because there was no reasonable cause of action. The judge recalled that on the day before the shootings, Moore had fired shots over a colleague’s grave. He was arrested and his police revolver was taken from him as he was found to be drunk. But later he was allowed to leave Newtownabbey RUC station unhindered. He returned there shortly afterwards and was again allowed to leave – this time with his shotgun. Ten minutes later he entered the Sinn Fein office and blasted the three men to death and injured two others. Mr Justice Pringle said the substance of the claim was that the police had been negligent. It was argued that other police should have kept Moore in custody and secured his shotgun as they knew his disturbed state of mind and also his declared intention to shoot people he believed were republicans. The crown relied on a House of Lords judgment in the Yorkshire Ripper case where it was held that the mother of his last victim had no reasonable cause of action on the ground of negligence by police in failing to detect Peter Sutcliffe before her daughter was murdered. Mr Justice Pringle said in that case there had been reference to the “best endeavours” of the police in the performance of their function. “In the present case some officers may have used their best endeavours, but some clearly did not,” said the judge. “It is difficult to see that in the extreme circumstances of the present case it is in the public interest that the police should have immunity from possible liability.” “If this had been the only issue I would have allowed the actions to proceed although uncertain of success.” Afterwards the victims’ relatives issued a statement asking: “If the law cannot protect us, who can? The judge’s opinion and the law is that the RUC owe no duty of care for the community. “In other words, the RUC just sit back and let one of their members kill whoever from the wider community. “Because of this judgment it won’t cost them a penny.” Solicitor Eamon McMenamin, from Madden and Finucane, said his clients had instructed him to appeal and he was considering the 10-page judgment in relation to the grounds of appeal.