MARTIN O’HAGAN CASE

Martin O'Hagan at Belfast May Day March: Photo © Kevin Cooper

Martin O’Hagan at a Belfast May Day March: Photo © Kevin Cooper

The National Union of Journalists has given a guarded welcome to the announcement that the police handling of the murder of Sunday World journalist and Belfast and District Branch member Martin O’Hagan is to be reviewed by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman. The union says the circumstances, which have led to the review, are “deeply disturbing” and highlight major defects in the original investigation and are cause for public concern.

Martin O’Hagan, a leading NUJ activist, was murdered in 2OO1. No one has been convicted of the murder. The Public Prosecution Service announced that it is not in a position to review the prison sentence handed down to so-called supergrass Neil Hyde. He had received a lenient prison sentence in return for co-operation with the RUC/PSNI investigation into the murder of the former Secretary of the NUJ Belfast and District Branch.  nujlogo_burgundy

NUJ Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said:-

The announcement that the Director of Public Prosecutions has referred the investigation to the Police Ombudsman is a depressing reminder of the failure of the police to investigate properly and impartially the murder of Martin O’Hagan. A deal was done with Neil Hyde and he received a three years prison sentence in February 2012 for a range of offences. The judge made it clear that he would have received an 18 years sentence if he had not agreed to identify those involved. It subsequently emerged that his uncorroborated evidence was not sufficient to secure the conviction of suspects. The PPS now says there is no basis to refer Hyde’s sentence back to the court. The 75 per cent reduction in his sentence for his co-operation under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005) will not be reversed and we are still waiting for justice. The director of the PPS is referring the investigation under section 55 of the Police (NI) Act 1998. We would give this development a guarded welcome but do not believe the Ombudsman is capable of delivering the justice which Martin, his family, his co-workers and his union colleagues have been demanding since his brutal murder.” PPSNI

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) confirmed that it is no longer in a position to ask the court to review the sentence it imposed on Neil Hyde for his involvement in the murder of Martin O’Hagan and other offences. In a statement (Wednesday 25th September 2013) it said that based on the initial evidence, the specified prosecutor in this case had concluded that the assisting offender had knowingly breached his agreement under section 73 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and that it was in the interest of justice that the case should be referred back to the original sentencing court.

However, following further examination of the evidence previously made available by police, extensive police enquiries and PPS consultation with the relevant witness, it is considered that the evidence which is now available is not sufficient to establish a breach of the agreement by Neil Hyde to the requisite standard. Accordingly there is no longer a basis to refer the matter to the court.

The court has therefore been informed that the PPS no longer seeks the review of the sentence. The Director (of Public Prosecutions) now intends to exercise his power under section 55 (4A) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 to refer the matter to the Police Ombudsman for investigation.

This story was covered in various media outlets, including RTÉ News, BBC News Northern Ireland, UTV News, by Gerry Moriarty in The Irish Times, Lurgan Mail by Carmel Robinson, News Letter, Belfast Telegraph and by Roy Greenslade in his blog in The Guardian.

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MARTIN O’HAGAN

Martin O'Hagan: Photo Kevin Cooper

Martin O’Hagan: Photo Kevin Cooper

Last week I wrote about the case of NUJ colleague Martin O’Hagan, shot dead by the LVF in Lurgan in September 2001. We remembered him and other journalists who had been killed in the course of their work during the IFJ Congress at Dublin Castle. In January the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory announced there was to be no prosecution regarding his killing.

Yesterday in Belfast (June 11th) there was an interesting development when, according to a BBC report, also carried on the RTÉ 6:01 news and on UTV, Mr McGrory revealed that the Public Prosecution Service has referred the case of  Neil Hyde back to court amid allegations that he did not tell the “full truth” in his dealings with the authorities. In January last year Hyde signed a contract with them under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act to become an “assisting offender”.

The loyalist supergrass testified against those allegedly responsible for murdering the Sunday World journalist. In return, his 18-year sentence was reduced to three years. He pleaded guilty to 48 offences, including drug dealing, arson, possession of firearms and withholding information in connection with Mr O’Hagan’s murder.

Mr McGrory told a news conference there was sufficient evidence that Hyde had knowingly breached the terms of his agreement. He added: “It’s in the interests of justice that the case be referred back to the original sentencing court.” Papers have been lodged and a judge will decide later this year whether Hyde broke his agreement and will review his sentence. It is believed to be the first time in the UK that a case of this type has been referred back to court.

PPSNI

NUJ MATTERS

NUJ Belfast Branch

NUJ Belfast Branch

The President of the National Union of Journalists Barry McCall from Dublin (third from right) was in Belfast for meetings proving that membership of the NUJ matters. Barry is the second Irish member in succession to hold the post, which is for an eighteen months term until the next delegate meeting in London in April 2014. From that date onwards, the President will serve for a two-year period, to tie in with the biennial delegate meetings. The decision to move to a meeting every two years was taken at the DM in Newcastle-on-Tyne last October, in an attempt to make financial savings.

Barry McCall & Claire Savage

Barry McCall & Claire Savage

Belfast and District Branch supported the cost-cutting measures proposed by the National Executive Council and has decided to write to the General Secretary Michelle Stansistreet to congratulate her on the way she and the officials dealt with the very difficult situation facing the union. The President reported that good progress had been made but that the pensions issue would be the subject of consultation with the union’s staff in the new financial year in April.

The day began with a meeting of the Northern Ireland sub-committee of the Irish Executive Council, which I chaired. One of the main matters to be discussed was journalist safety, following recent attacks on and threats to members of the media. It was proposed that a two-day exhibition be held at Dublin Castle in June, during the Congress of the International Federation of Journalists, during which members of Belfast and District and Derry & North West branches would be available to network with visitors.

It is also intended to hold a half day briefing session open to all media workers and employers in the North about the safety of reporters, camera operators and photographers covering public disorder. One of the issues that will be raised will be the use of social media during riot situations. The committee also noted the Irish Secretary’s expression of “grave disappointment” at the announcement last month by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland that there will be no prosecution in the Martin O’Hagan murder case. Martin was shot dead by loyalist paramiltaries in Lurgan as he walked home in 2001.

The branch also received a letter of thanks from the BBC chapel, who had been on strike yesterday at Broadcasting House. A chapel representative said the support was appreciated. It was also pointed out that there was a good level of support for the strikers from members of the public.

MARTIN O’HAGAN

nujlogo_burgundyThe announcement by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland that there will be no prosecution in the case of the killing of NUJ member and former Belfast Branch Secretary Martin O’Hagan is extremely disappointing and has been criticised by the union. I can understand the reaction of his family. His brother Fintan, quoted by BBC NI, said there was a witness who wanted to tell a court who killed Martin, yet the Public Prosecution Service was depriving that witness the opportunity of telling the court his account and further depriving the court of the opportunity to consider the truthfulness or otherwise of that evidence and depriving the family, and indeed the public, of the opportunity to see justice in action. “Justice needs not just to be done, it needs to be seen to be done”, he added.    PPSNI

He was responding to the statement by DPP Barra McGrory that after very careful consideration of all the available evidence, including that of an assisting offender, Neil Hyde, a decision had been taken not to prosecute in the murder case. This was owing to the absence of any corroboration of the evidence. When Hyde was jailed in February 2012 for three years, the judge told him that if he had not agreed to identify the alleged culprits in Mr O’Hagan’s murder and give evidence about the activities of the outlawed LVF, he would have been jailed for 18 years. Mr O’Hagan, a Sunday World journalist, was shot dead as he was walking home with his wife in Lurgan in 2001.

Sunday World Northern Editor Jim McDowell said he was angry and annoyed at Friday’s announcement. “Myself and the staff have worked hard since that black Friday in September 2001 to try to get justice for Martin O’Hagan. It now seems, that old adage, while there there may be law in this country, where is the justice?” He said the decision would not diminish in any way the paper’s resolve to continue to try to get justice for Martin.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has expressed grave disappointment at the announcement by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland that a decision has been taken not to prosecute in the Martin O’Hagan murder case. Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said the union was disturbed by the announcement. “This union does not accept that the State can walk away from this case. The murder of Martin O’Hagan was an outrageous act of violence which cannot go unpunished. We will continue to campaign for a full investigation leading to the conviction of those responsible for the murder of our friend and colleague“, he said.