Former RUC officers are no longer helping to investigate controversial killings from Northern Ireland’s troubled past, it was revealed today.
Counsel for the Chief Constable disclosed that a contract under which ex-policemen and women were temporarily rehired ended 18 months ago.
He also confirmed at the High Court in Belfast there are no plans to renew the arrangements in future.
The development, announced in a legal challenge brought by the parents of a loyalist murder victim, was described as a significant victory for hundreds of families involved in so-called legacy investigations.
Vivienne and Raymond McCord’s 22-year-old son Raymond Jr was beaten to death and dumped in Ballyduff Quarry in 1997.
His murder was at the centre of a damning report by former Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan that established evidence that rogue Special Branch officers colluded with a north Belfast UVF gang responsible for up to 16 deaths.
Mr and Mrs McCord were seeking to stop retired RUC men being brought back to work on historical inquiries amid fears it may thwart efforts to establish the full circumstances surrounding the killing.
Their concerns focused on a PSNI contract with a private agency to recruit staff, including ex-RUC officers, to help with investigative duties on historic cases including their son’s killing.
But at the opening of a planned judicial review hearing, Tony McGleenan QC, for the Chief Constable, said the arrangement came to an end in December 2014.
Pressed by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, he confirmed no former RUC officers are currently involved in any investigative work.
“The PSNI have no plans to appoint any replacement contract to supply temporary workers,” Mr McGleenan added.
The McCords legal team said they only became aware of the development last week.
Frank O’Donoghue QC stressed that a live investigation into Raymond McCord Jr’s murder is continuing.
“The allegation is not just against known suspects , but also certain members of the RUC - that was the subject of the Police Ombudsman’s report,” he said.
“It’s obviously an extremely sensitive area, and it’s simply on the basis that we have these express assurances from the PSNI that the arrangement is now at an end after all these years that my client is satisfied they don’t need to pursue this openly in court.”
Sir Declan agreed to dismiss the case as being rendered academic by the police pledges.
Outside court Mr McCord said: “This is a great victory for victims.
“We were led to believe that no RUC officers would be involved in investigating Raymond’s case.”
His solicitor, Padraig O Muirigh, vowed to return to court to challenge any future contract to rehire former RUC officers.
He added: “This is a significant victory for our client, their family, and hundreds of other families affected by legacy investigations.”