Screens, but not anonymity, for Hamill inquiry

Nineteen serving and retired police officers in the North will be able to give their evidence to the Robert Hamill Inquiry from behind screens, it was announced tonight.

But the inquiry chairman, retired High Court judge Edwin Jowitt, ruled that they will not be granted full anonymity and their names will be given to the inquiry sitting in Belfast.

The ruling was given in response to an application for screening and anonymity on behalf of a number of serving and retired officers based on the continuing activity of dissident republicans – including the recent murder of a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

Robert Hamill, a 25-year-old Catholic, was beaten to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown, Co Armagh in 1997.

No one has been charged in connection with the murder and nationalists have alleged police sat back and watched him die.

The inquiry is one of four ordered by the UK government into contentious murders where security force collusion has been alleged.

An inquiry spokesman said: “After giving careful consideration to all relevant evidence and legal argument, the inquiry panel has today ruled that 19 witnesses who are serving or retired officers may given their evidence from behind a screen.

“While their names will be made public, screening will mean that the witnesses in question cannot be visually identified which will offer them some additional protection.

“The public will still have access to the hearing chamber.”

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