Police Ombudsman launches informer tape probe
The Police Ombudsman has launched an investigation into explosive claims made by two PSNI intelligence officers who were secretly recorded while trying to recruit a suspected drug dealer as an informer.
The probe was launched after an Irish News investigation revealed details of the covertly recorded conversation this week.
In the recording, which is believed to have been made in the Portrush area in March, an officer (known as Policeman 1) told the man (known as Suspect 1) that the PSNI knew he was a drug dealer and offered him protection if he worked for them.
He was also told he could be paid up to £15,000 for information about another man police believe is a major dealer - whom we have called Target 1.
An officer later claimed that Target 1 has “connections to the police” and claimed “there’s dirty f**kin’ peelers about”.
During the exchange another officer - known as Policeman 2 - claimed that PSNI colleagues are "probably f**ckin’ working” for Target 1.
Astonishingly, Policeman 1 also claimed that the "suspicion" for providing information could be directed at other people and went on to identify two men who could be set up as patsies.
During the expletive-ridden conversation one police officer also repeatedly names several suspected drug dealers on the north coast.
The two officers, who are based in Derry, are members of the PSNI’s C3 Intelligence Branch - which was formerly known as special branch.
For the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire to move so quickly to launch his own investigation in response to a newspaper report is considered unusual.
Dr Maguire said he is concerned by the revelations.
“The ‘Irish News’ report raises concerns which go to the heart of covert policing methods,” he said.
“Covert policing is an invaluable tool in combating crime, but the methods used must be in accordance with the relevant legislation and in line with the procedures which govern its use.”
Dr Maguire said he will strive to identify any wrong doing on the part of PSNI officers.
“If police officers have improper relationships with drug dealers, are protecting them from investigation, including by pointing the blame at innocent parties, then this needs to be identified,” he said.
“If there is no substance to the discussions which have been recorded, it is also important that this is established and reported on, so that the cloud of suspicion is lifted.”
Target 1’s solicitor Ciarán Shiels said his client has never been charged with any drugs offences.
He has also lodged a separate complaint on behalf of his clients with the Police Ombudsman.
“A complaint was lodged and the ombudsman will have access to the material and we would hope he is able to conduct his investigation in a quick and robust manner,” he said.
A spokesman for the PSNI said: “As this is now the subject of an investigation by the Police Ombudsman's Office it would be inappropriate to comment.”
Former Policing Board member Dolores Kelly welcomed the investigation.
“The investigation into allegations of police criminality must be robust and given full cooperation by all of those with information,” she said.
“Public confidence in the PSNI will demand nothing less.”