Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009

PSNI stall on shoot-to-kill files

Three IRA men were shot dead at a checkpoint by police in 1982

The police have asked for more time to hand over secret reports into so-called shoot-to-kill incidents in Northern Ireland in the 1980s.

Coroner John Leckey, who set a November deadline for the material to be handed over, has received a letter from the PSNI asking for a delay until February.

The request will be considered at a court hearing at the end of this month.

Six people, including IRA members, died in the controversial shootings by the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The investigation into whether the police set out to kill them was conducted by former Greater Manchester Police Deputy Chief Constable John Stalker and Sir Colin Sampson of the West Yorkshire Police.

Their reports have never been made public.

In a statement, the police said they were "regrettably" unable to meet the deadline because of the volume of material and "the complex issues involved."

The statement adds: "The PSNI wishes to re-emphasise its willingness to co-operate fully with the coroner and continues to proceed as expeditiously as possible with a comprehensive disclosure exercise that involves a thorough evaluation of any risks to national security and consideration of human rights issues."

In September, Mr Leckey asked for the Stalker and Sampson reports to be made available by 9 November.

He was speaking at a preliminary hearing into the 1982 deaths of IRA men Eugene Toman, Sean Burns and Gervaise McKerr near Lurgan, County Armagh.

Mr Leckey directed his order to release the reports to PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

He was repeating a demand he made to former Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde in October 2007.

John Stalker
John Stalker was brought in to investigate

In November 1982, police fired 109 bullets into the car the three IRA men were travelling in after they claimed it crashed through a checkpoint.

It later emerged the three were suspected of involvement in the killings of three RUC officers in a bomb a fortnight earlier and had been under observation.

Mr Leckey also plans to hold inquests into the deaths of Catholic teenager Michael Tighe, shot dead by police at a hay shed near Craigavon, County Armagh in November 1982, and suspected INLA men Roddy Carroll and Seamus Grew, shot dead near Armagh in December 1982.

The government has always denied any "shoot-to-kill" policy existed and has resisted calls from families to look again at what happened.

Former Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police Sir John Stalker was brought in to investigate. He was later replaced by Colin Sampson, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police.

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