Northern Ireland

Former RUC officers John McGahan and Philip Thomson acquitted

Protest
Image caption Former RUC officer, John McGahan, confronts protesters outside Belfast Crown Court. Earlier, he was acquitted of perverting the course of justice during an RUC investigation of an IRA murder in 1979.

Two former RUC officers have been acquitted of perverting the course of justice during an RUC investigation of an IRA murder in Londonderry in 1979.

John McGahan, 71, and Philip Noel Thomson, 64, were charged after a 2012 Police Ombudsman report into the case.

Lt Stephen Kirby was shot by the IRA in February 1979.

In the late 1970s the RUC charged four teenagers with the soldier's murder. They were acquitted of the murder charges and other offences in 1998.

On Monday, the two officers charged with perverting the course of justice, in connection with their case, appeared at the Crown Court in Belfast.

Within minutes of a jury being sworn in, a judge directed the 12 members to find the two former police officers not guilty, after the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) offered no evidence.

In December, the PPS said at the opening of men's trial that it did not intend to offer any evidence against Mr McGahan and Mr Thompson as a result of information it had received from the Police Ombudsmans office.

The PPS said the information was not available to it when a decision to prosecute the two men had been taken.

Responding on Monday to the collapse of the case the four men who were originally charged as teenagers by the RUC, said they had been failed by the PPS.

In a letter to the director of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, they said: "The PPS spent two years reviewing the files and materials before deciding to initiate this prosecution; two more years of our lives where we were forced to sit and wait for institutions of the state to make decisions that profoundly impact on our lives.

"In this two-year period, during which the PPS reviewed, examined, analysed, sought legal advice, sought additional advice, why did the PPS not seek and examine all of the materials relating to this case?

"Why was it left to the 11th hour, once a trial date had been set, for the PPS to finally examine all the materials and then decide not to proceed?"

Image caption Four men who were charged as teenagers with Lt Stephen Kirby's murder were acquitted in 1998 and later complained to the Police Ombudsman about the RUC investigation

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