A former Tory minister who sparked controversy by linking solicitors in Northern Ireland to the IRA was "compromised" by information fed to him by police officers, a report into paramilitary collusion has found.
Douglas Hogg: 1989 controversy
Douglas Hogg, a home office minister in 1989, told MPs in the Commons that some of Northern Ireland solicitors were "unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA" just weeks before Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane was murdered.
Sir John Stevens, author of a major report into collaboration between security forces and loyalist paramilitaries, said Mr Hogg's comments had not been justified when he made them during a Commons anti-terrorism legislation debate on 17 January 1989.
Mr Hogg, who went on to be Cabinet member and remains a Conservative MP, made his remarks after a briefing from senior Royal Ulster Constabulary officers.
In his report into collusion, Sir John said his conclusion was that a branch of UK army intelligence and some police officers in Northern Ireland actively helped a paramilitary group to murder Catholics in the late 1980s.
Sir John said: "My inquiry team also investigated an allegation that senior RUC officers briefed the parliamentary under secretary of state for the Home department, the Rt Hon Douglas Hogg QC, MP, that 'some solicitors were unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA'.
"Mr Hogg's comments about solicitors' support for terrorism made on 17th January 1989 aroused controversy.
"To the extent that they were based on information passed by the RUC, they were not justifiable and the inquiry concludes that the Minister was compromised."
Mr Hogg's RUC briefing came shortly after Mr Finucane had succeeded in getting charges dropped against a suspected IRA man charged in connection with 1999 murder of two army corporals, an event that was captured on camera.
Following the Commons statement, nationalist politicians and legal campaigners roundly criticised Mr Hogg.
Speaking immediately after the statement, the SDLP's Seamus Mallon called on Mr Hogg to withdraw the remarks.
"I have no doubt that there are lawyers walking the streets or driving on the roads of the north of Ireland who have become targets for assassins' bullets as a result of the statement that has been made tonight," he said. "Following the minister's statement, people's lives are in danger."
Just under a month later, loyalist gunmen shot dead Mr Finucane at his home. On learning of the killing Mr Hogg issued a statement.
"This is clearly, like so many others a tragic and wicked killing. As to its cause, that must be a matter for the RUC," he said.
"I very much hope those people responsible will be arrested, and sentenced to extremely long terms of imprisonment," he said.
Mr Hogg spoke to the Stevens Inquiry in 2000 after being invited by Commander Hugh Orde, now Northern Ireland's chief constable, to explain how he came to make the comments.
The latest report, called Stevens Three, found members of the RUC and Army colluded with the largest loyalist paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), to murder Catholics.
The report, which centres on the murder of Catholic solicitor Pat Finucane in 1989 and student Adam Lambert in 1987, was delivered to Northern Ireland Chief Constable Hugh Orde on Thursday.
November 1988: Terrorism charges dropped against major IRA suspect represented by Mr Finucane
17 January 1989: Hogg statement in Commons and row
12 February 1989: Pat Finucane shot dead
Sir John said: "I have uncovered enough evidence to lead me to believe that the murders of Pat Finucane and Brian Adam Lambert could have been prevented.
"I also believe that the RUC investigation of Pat Finucane's murder should have resulted in the early arrest and detection of his killers.
"I conclude there was collusion in both murders and the circumstances surrounding them."
The Finucane family has always believed the security forces were involved in his murder and have dismissed the report.
Mr Finucane's widow, Geraldine, said a full judicial inquiry was the only way to deal with the issue.
Sir John said that he is still determined to try to bring Pat Finucane's killers to justice - and he is still investigating just how far up the chain of command the collusion might have gone.