THE RUC is expected to appeal a court ruling yesterday that the actions of a deranged policeman who killed three people and wounded two others could leave the force liable for huge compensation awards.
The court of appeal in Belfast held it was arguable that a duty of care existed to the victims of Constable Allen Moore (24) who tricked his way into the Sinn Fein centre on Belfast’s Falls Road five years ago and opened up with a pump-action shotgun. The judgment overturned a decision by Mr Justice Pringle last January that the RUC had no duty of care to the victims or their dependents. He held that the force had no responsibility because the large number of unidentifiable potential victims meant there was no special relationship between them and the police. However the appeal court judges – Lord Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell, Lord Justice MacDermott and Mr Justice Kerr – decided that the RUC could be made liable for compensation. Sir Robert said: “It seems to us to be arguable that if the facts alleged in the statements of claim are correct the RUC came under a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent Constable Moore from inflicting harm on anyone.” He said that in upholding the appeals the court wished to make it clear they were not ruling on the existence of a duty of care – merely that it was arguable one existed. It would be for the trial judge to decide whether or not the police owed the plaintiffs a duty of care and, if so, whether it was broken. The shooting in the Sinn Fein Centre on February 4 1992, was one of the most bizarre incidents during the troubles. Const Moore, a bachelor, from Ballymena, had been arrested the previous day and had his police gun seized after he fired shots over a colleague’s grave while drunk. But he was allowed to leave Newtownabbey RUC station with his pump-action shotgun which he used to kill Patrick Loughran (60) Michael O’Dwyer (21) and Patrick McBride (40) and wound Patrick Wilson (30) and Nora Larkin. The former award-winning policeman then drove to the shores of Lough Neagh and used the shotgun to kill himself. Solicitor Eamon McMenamin, of Madden and Finucane, who appeared for the appellants, said he was happy the highest court in the jurisdiction had allowed the case to go to a hearing. In the past the defendants had tried to use a legal loophole to try and escape their legal and moral responsibility to those shot, he said. But he feared the defendants would delay the matter further by appealing to the House of Lords.