A man who witnessed his grandfather’s sectarian murder in an attack involving a protected police informer must be awarded £90,000 (€100,000) in damages, a Supreme Court judge ruled today.
Michael Monaghan Jr. got the payout in his claim against the Chief Constable for the loyalist paramilitary murder of Sean McParland in North Belfast nearly 30 years ago.
Mr Justice Rooney believed police were aware that the Special Branch agent, a leading UVF terrorist referred to only as Informant 1, had already confessed to his role in other murders but was “recklessly indifferent” to the likelihood of further attacks.
He said: “Defendant not only turned a blind eye to the serious criminality of informant 1, he went further and took active steps to protect (him) from any effective investigation and from prosecution, despite (he) admitting that he was involved in previous murders and crime.”
Mr. McParland, a 55-year-old innocent Catholic, was shot dead in February 1994 while doing nanny work at his grandchildren’s home on Skegoniel Avenue.
UVF commander and supergrass Gary Haggarty has pleaded guilty and has been convicted of the murder as part of a massive back catalog of paramilitary crime.
Mr McParland’s four grandchildren have all sued the Chief Constable over alleged shortcomings in the RUC’s dealings with another paid terrorist agent involved in the murder – Informant 1.
Compensation was sought for the mental injuries and trauma they were subjected to.
With the police reportedly admitting negligence and misconduct in public office, the case focused on a dispute over the amount of any punitive damages.
The court heard that the killers tricked Mr. McParland’s grandson, Michael Monaghan Jr, then nine years old, into opening the door to the family’s home.
The court heard that McParland was nine years old when he was tricked into opening the front door to his grandfather’s killers.
One of the masked men pointed a gun at him before targeting their victim, who was recovering from throat cancer.
In emotional testimony, Mr. Monaghan recalled seeing his grandfather get down on his knees and beg the gunman not to shoot.
He also described seeking help and witnessing paramedics perform CPR with a baby suit due to Mr. McParland’s tracheostomy before rejoining his three younger siblings.
After the shooting, he was wracked with unfounded guilt for letting the killers into their home, the court heard.
Counsel for the Monaghan family argued that the Special Branch agent was protected by his handlers, despite admitting his role in the murder, and used that protected status to engage in “criminal mayhem”.
Even when he confessed to being involved in murders, police conducted “sham” inquiries on him and secured his release without charge, the court heard.
A police ombudsman report linked informant 1 to a total of 10 murders, 10 other attempted murders, and a wide variety of other serious crimes.
Those findings identified evidence of Special Branch collusion in blocking efforts to bring the agent to justice.
Mr Justice Rooney described the Ombudsman’s conclusions as “shocking and disturbing”.
He awarded Mr Monagan total damages of £90,000 to cover the heavy damage and post-traumatic stress, saying the likely damage from the unnamed terrorist’s “murderous acts” was predictable.
“I conclude that the police officers, as public officials, engaged in illegal acts and knew or were recklessly indifferent to the consequences of their illegality,” he said.
“By failing to take steps to properly investigate and prosecute Informant 1, by a conscious determination to protect him, and by continuing to deploy him as a CHIS (Covert Human Intelligence Source), the police either knew or were consciously indifferent to the risk that he would likely commit further murders and serious acts of violence, resulting in death, personal injury and psychiatric damage.”
According to the judge, it is “ridiculous” that the officer assumed such a protected status that he could freely admit the murder.
“Even after the murder of Sean McParland, the accused informant 1 continued to pay large sums of money for a long time,” he added.
“Informant 1 was never brought to justice and the Ombudsman concluded that the defendant engaged in collusion in protecting informant 1.”
Out of court, Mr Monaghan’s lawyer described the outcome as a “clear victory” for his client.
KRW Law’s Setanta Marley said: “All of his allegations of conspiracy against the police were upheld by this ruling.”
Mr Marley added: “Not only is this case very important to the Monaghan family, but going forward the verdict sets a roadmap for so many other pending collusion cases.
“It provides very clear guidance on what is needed to prove conspiracy against government agencies and sets a benchmark for the amount of compensation to be paid to victims.”