A man who witnessed the sectarian killing of his grandfather in an attack involving a protected police informant is to receive £90,000(€100,000) damages, a High Court judge ruled today.
ichael Monaghan Jr was awarded the payout in his claim against the Chief Constable over the loyalist paramilitary murder of Sean McParland in north Belfast nearly 30 years ago.
Mr Justice Rooney held that police knew the Special Branch agent, a leading UVF terrorist referred to only as Informant 1, had already confessed his role in other killings but were “recklessly indifferent” to the likelihood of further attacks.
He said: “The defendant not only turned a blind eye to Informant 1’s serious criminality, it went further and took active measures to protect (him) from any effective investigation and from prosecution, despite the fact that (he) had admitted his involvement in previous murders and criminality.”
Mr McParland, a 55-year-old innocent Catholic, was shot dead as he carried out babysitting duties at his grandchildren’s home on Skegoniel Avenue in February 1994.
UVF commander-turned-supergrass Gary Haggarty has pleaded guilty and been convicted of the murder as part of a huge catalogue of paramilitary crime.
Mr McParland’s four grandchildren have all sued the Chief Constable for alleged failures in how the RUC handled another paid terrorist agent involved in the killing – Informant 1.
Compensation was sought for the mental injuries and trauma they were exposed to.
With police said to have admitted negligence and misfeasance in public office, the case centred on a dispute over the level of any damages.
The court heard the killers tricked Mr McParland’s grandson Michael Monaghan Jr, then aged nine, into opening the door to the family’s home.
The court heard Mr McParland was nine years old when tricked into opening the front door to his grandfather’s murderers.
One of the masked men pointed a gun at him before targeting their victim, who had been recovering from throat cancer.
In emotional testimony, Mr Monaghan recalled seeing his grandfather getting on his knees and begging the gunman not to shoot.
He also described seeking help and witnessing paramedics perform CPR with a baby’s sleepsuit because of Mr McParland’s tracheostomy before he rejoined his three younger siblings.
Following the shooting he was plagued by unwarranted feelings of guilt for letting the killers into their home, the court heard.
Counsel for the Monaghan family argued that the Special Branch agent was shielded by his handlers despite admitting to his role in the murder, and used that protected status to participate in “criminal mayhem”.
Even when he confessed to involvement in killings police carried out “sham” investigations into him and ensured that he was released without charge, the court heard.
A Police Ombudsman report linked Informant 1 to a total of 10 murders, 10 other attempted murders and a vast array of other serious crimes.
Those findings identified evidence of Special Branch collusion in blocking attempts to bring the agent to justice.
Mr Justice Rooney described the Ombudsman’s conclusions as “shocking and disturbing”.
Awarding total compensation of £90,000 to Mr Monagan to cover aggravated damages and post-traumatic stress, he said the probable harm from the unnamed terrorist’s “murderous acts” had been predictable.
“I conclude that the police officers, as public officers, engaged in unlawful acts and knew or were recklessly indifferent as to the consequences of their illegality,” he held.
“By failing to take any steps to properly investigate and prosecute Informant 1, by engaging in a deliberate determination to protect him and by continuing to deploy him as a CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source), the police knew or were consciously indifferent to the risk that he was likely to commit further murders and engage in serious acts of violence, resulting in death, personal injury and psychiatric damage.”
According to the judge it “beggars belief” that the agent assumed such a protected status that he was freely able to admit to the killing.
“Even after the murder of Sean McParland, the defendant continued to pay Informant 1 large sums of money for a significant period of time,” he added.
“Informant 1 has never been brought to justice and the Ombudsman has concluded that, by protecting Informant 1, the defendant has engaged in collusion.”
Outside court, Mr Monaghan’s solicitor described the outcome as a “resounding victory” for his client.
Setanta Marley of KRW Law said: “All of his allegations of collusion against the police were upheld by this ruling.”
Mr Marley added: “This case is not only very significant for the Monaghan family, but going forward the judgment sets out a route map for so many other pending collusion cases.
“It provides very clear guidance on what is required in order to prove collusion against State agencies and sets a benchmark on the level of damages that ought to be paid to victims.”