The Director of Public Prosecutions has asked the PSNI Chief Constable to investigate the actions of the former deputy Director of Special Branch and MI5 personnel over the alleged destruction of evidence more than 30 years ago.
In November 1982, Micheal Tighe was shot dead and Martin McCauley was injured by RUC officers in a hayshed near Lurgan.
Three rusty rifles were later found there, without any ammunition. The DPP at the time, unaware that tapes existed following a Special Branch surveillance operation at the hayshed, prosecuted Martin McCauley.
In 1983, on learning the police officers involved had made false statements, the attack in the hayshed was investigated by the former assistant chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, and Sir Colin Sampson of West Yorkshire Police, to try to establish whether police intended to shoot to kill.
They discovered the original audio recording had been destroyed by a senior police officer the day after the killing. MI5 had also destroyed an unauthorised copy in 1985.
In September last year, after his case was examined by the criminal cases review commission, Martin McCauley’s conviction was quashed.
In his judgement the Lord Chief Justice said “The Deputy Head of Special Branch had the tape and monitor logs destroyed because of the deep embarrassment this might cause.”
On Wednesday, Barry McGrory QC said he had grave concerns about the case and has decided to use his powers to ask the PSNI Chief Constable and the Police Ombudsman to carry out a full investigation.
“I have concluded that I must exercise my power to request that the Chief Constable and the Police Ombudsman investigate matters which may involve offences committed against the law of Northern Ireland,” the DPP said in a statement.
“The Test for Prosecution will be applied in relation to any evidence uncovered through the course of the investigation.”
In a statement, the Chief Constable said in the interests of transparency and public confidence he will work with HMIC to bring in an outside force to investigate the matter.
“The team will work under the direction of, and will report directly to, the Chief Constable of PSNI who will oversee the investigation and report to the Director of Public Prosecutions,” a PSNI spokesperson said.
“The PSNI will also work with the Office of the Police Ombudsman to ensure that they are provided with the information they require to conduct their investigation as speedily as possible.”
Peter Madden, the solicitor who represents Martin McCauley has welcomed the investigation.
He said: “It is very significant as you are talking about the highest level of the RUC at the time, the highest level that goes to the top and also the MI5, who were hand in glove at the time, it remains to be seen how much of a detailed investigation will take place.”
If any of the Special Branch or MI5 officers are found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice they could face a prison sentence for what the Director of Prosecutions said is a serious offence.