UK: Police watchdog to probe claims 2002 theft of Special Branch personnel info at Castlereagh police station involved inside help
On March 17, 2002, there was a break-in and burglary at Castlereagh police station. The records that were stolen put lives at risk, as the stolen data included a list of officers in the Special Branch intelligence unit with contact details, and the code names of paramilitary agents and their handlers. Dozens of officers subsequently had to move to protect their safety and the safety of their families.
For years, there have been rumors that this was an inside job – or involved the cooperation of an insider – to help an IRA agent. In June, 2002, Statewatch wrote about the case; their article provides more background on those allegations.
The theft of information not only impacted those still working, but those who had retired, leaving some with PTSD and/or in fear for their lives and their families’ lives.
Now, 13 years later, one of those affected by the data theft has come forward to seek a formal investigation. The Belfast Telegraph reports:
Now a former Special Branch officer whose details were stolen has come forward to make an official complaint alleging the police allowed the break-in to happen.
Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable George Hamilton has referred the allegation to the region’s independent police complaints watchdog, the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (PONI).
Belfast-based lawyer Kevin Winters represents the former police officer making the claims.
“We act on behalf of an ex-Special Branch officer who made a request to PSNI to investigate his allegations that the Castlereagh break-in 2002 was allowed to happen,” he said.
Read more on Belfast Telegraph.