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Police investigating the 1974 Guildford pub bombings have “seized” archives and may destroy some of them, a memo seen by the BBC has claimed.
The records at Surrey History Centre were gathered by retired officers and deposited by ex-Ch Supt Bob Bartlett.
Correspondence said one file, dated 1967-74, covering the year of the bombs, had information on wanted people but “will be destroyed” on retention.
Surrey Police said no papers had been destroyed and files would be audited.
Five people were killed and 65 injured in the IRA attacks and 11 people were wrongly convicted and spent up to 15 years in jail.
For decades, questions have been asked about the police investigation after no-one else was prosecuted.
Lawyers representing the family of victim Ann Hamilton and survivor Yvonne Tagg in the resumed Guildford pub bombings inquest said if files were being retained, closed or marked for destruction, it raised “serious concerns”.
Correspondence given to the BBC said police “entered the Surrey History Centre to recover any Guildford bombings related material because there is to be an inquest”.
It said they “seized” files on 14 November covering both the terror attacks and other “diverse material” including retirement certificates, photographs of the Operations Room and pocketbooks, along with information on a rabies alert and disruption in the countryside, without consulting Mr Bartlett, who runs the Surrey Constabulary History website.
It also claimed “archivists felt compelled to comply with police demands” and went on to criticise the move as “over-interpreting the law” and “over-zealous”.
The papers included an appendix setting out reasons given by Surrey Police for taking the documents, citing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Data Protection Act 2018, Management of Police Information (MoPI), the Public Records Act, the Freedom of Information Act and other guidance.
Files listed as withdrawn included a major incident handbook from the 1970s; photographs of the interiors and exteriors of the bombed pubs; and a file dated 1973-75 covering actions in dealing with incendiary devices, which were closed and may now apparently be retained for 100 years.
An open file containing four photographs of the pub bombing scene by war photographer and Fleet Street journalist Terry Fincher was also listed as retained while the force checked whether he was working for them.
Mr Fincher’s daughter, Jayne Barlow, who holds his work in a separate archive, has said he was not working for the police.
‘Secrecy and evasion’
Christopher Stanley, from KRW Law, said: “If files in the public domain which could have any relevance or significance to the pub bombings in Guildford, Woolwich and Birmingham – or the IRA bombing campaign in England between 1973 and 1975 generally – are being retained, closed or marked for destruction by the Surrey Police or other agency, then this is cause for serious concern.
“These files need to be independently assessed for their relevance, if any, to the resumed inquest and other inquiries and investigations which are ongoing or in the future – for example the current live investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings being undertaken by the West Midlands Police.”
He said material that might have evidential value to answering questions about the Northern Ireland conflict was too often being destroyed, retained or closed by agencies of the state.
“The practice represents a corporate culture of secrecy and evasion which robs the relatives of victims of the conflict and survivors of the possibility of truth and reconciliation,” he said.
This month it also emerged the Home Office had taken more than 700 files out of The National Archives in a move that campaigners said was “a disgrace”.
The resumed inquest has also heard Surrey Police destroyed five boxes of police files “in error”.
Retired lawyer Alastair Logan, who represented the wrongly-jailed Guildford Four, said police had in effect seized private property and the basis they claimed for seizing the files needed to be legally examined.
He said the file covering 1967-74 that was apparently earmarked for destruction could be relevant to the inquest and to the history of the matter of the Guildford bombings, adding: “There appears to be no public oversight on what is happening.”
“That file could point to people other than the Guildford Four as potential culprits – we don’t know,” he said.
“What is contentious is if it were to indicate that advance knowledge could have prevented the offences – that would be extremely important to the coroner.”
On that particular file, the full reason for withdrawal stated in the memo was: “Breach of GDPR and unknown if any are MoPI 1. This information will be destroyed under MoPi guideline when it has reached retention.”
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What we know about the Guildford pub bombings
The total number of files seized is not known but, of those listed as withdrawn, nine were requested by the BBC on 26 September when it was established many of Mr Bartlett’s files held at the archives were closed.
That request went to the Surrey History Centre but a revised request has since been submitted to Surrey Police to see day book entries from 1974.
The BBC has been seeking to view first-hand records of police activity on the night of the bombings after hearing claims of a discrepancy in timings by Charles King, whose son Rob, a reporter who went on to work for national newspapers, was on the scene and insisted the first explosion happened 20 minutes earlier than the time given.
A statement issued by the force said: “Surrey Police fully recognises the importance of recording information for historical value and works closely with the Surrey History Centre to encourage and support the archiving of material where it is lawful.”
It said it came to light last summer that alongside material deposited by Surrey Police through an agreed process, other material gathered by retired officers had been submitted directly by a former officer.
The statement said: “Material generated in the course of employment with Surrey Police should be submitted to the information management team who will assess and identify whether it is suitable for archiving.
“Submission of material directly to an archive does not satisfy our legal obligations. As the owner of this material and a data controller, Surrey Police is subject to strict guidelines.”
Surrey Police met archivists last September to advise them the collection would need to be removed and audited and the centre agreed the removal “would be done by appointment” on 14 November, it said.
“None of the material has been destroyed,” the statement added. “It will be audited against the relevant legal guidelines and, where possible, returned to the history centre.”
It said any material that was still within retention must remain within the possession of Surrey Police.
Surrey County Council, which runs Surrey History Centre, said it was not its place to comment.
With many thanks to: BBC News England (Surrey) and Tanya Gupta for the original story
A MAN was brought to hospital after being shot yesterday in West Belfast.
It happened at Burnaby Walk in the Grosvenor Road area of the city. Police said it is believed the man sustained injuries to his knee and foot. He was last night in hospital receiving treatment for his injuries. Police received a report at about 5.55pm that a man had sustained gunshot wounds. It is believed the man was rushed to hospital in a private car before officers arrived at the scene.
Detective Sergeant Keith Wilson appealed for anyone with information which could assist detectives with their enquiries to phone them in Musgrave on 101 quoting reference number 1785 13/01/20. He also said information could be given anonymously through the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
With many thanks to: The Irish News and Brendan Hughes for the original email@example.com
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All four of Northern Ireland’s daily papers are leading with the same story – the attempted murder of an off-duty police office near the Irish border.
The officer was confronted by a masked man aiming a shotgun at him as he opened the door of his home in Kesh, County Fermanagh, on Thursday morning.
Despite the ongoing threat from dissident republicans, this time the police said they suspected “organised criminal elements” were to blame.
The Irish News focuses on an dramatic quote from the Police Federation which described it as a “Mafia-style” attack.
“This is gangsterism at its worst,” according to the federation’s North of Ireland chairman, Mark Lindsay.
The paper says it understands the officer is a “young” man and has spoken to a local councillor who says the victim is from a “well-respected family in the area”.
“It is terrible that this has come to his door in such a personal way and it will take some time for him to come to terms with it,” Ulster Unionist councillor John McClaughry tells the Irish News.
The Belfast Telegraph says the officer has been “traumatised” by the incident which happened at about 02:00 GMT on Thursday.
It also quotes Mr Lindsay, who said: “I spoke with him earlier today and, understandably, he has been left badly shaken by the shocking experience.”
The Daily Mirror reports the Police Service of NI (RUC/PSNI) is taking steps to ensure the officer’s personal security.
The paper says it understands the officer “has been advised to move to alternative family accommodation” as the investigation continues.
The News Letter leads with condemnation from DUP leader Arlene Foster, who described it as an “outrageous attack on a public servant”.
“It is a reminder of the threat and danger that police officers face on a daily basis as they try to protect our community,” she added.
The DUP leader is also featured on the front of the Belfast Telegraph, having issued a warning about the ongoing talks to restore the North of Ireland Assembly.
Time is running out for parties to strike a deal before the 13 January deadline, at which point the secretary of state is obliged to call an assembly election.
The Telegraph reports Sinn Féin are insisting an agreement can be reached “very, very quickly”, but Mrs Foster has warned any deal to save Stormont “can’t be a sticking plaster”.
The Irish News also covers the talks on its front page and appears to suggest Mrs Foster’s party is holding up progress.
“The DUP was last night continuing to resist a speedy resolution to the Stormont talks while other parties insisted agreement was in reach,” according to its political correspondent John Manley.
But it is not just Mrs Foster who is urging caution on behalf of the DUP.
The party’s new leader at Westminster, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, is pictured facing a crowd of journalists in Stormont’s Great Hall where he suggested his party would not be pressured into a deal.
“We are not in the business of snatching at something because there is a deadline,” Sir Jeffrey said, adding the DUP was seeking a “fair and balanced” agreement.
Mr Manley says the talks are focused on resolving disagreements over the petition of concern, the Irish language and a financial package from Westminster.
The petition is a controversial Stormont veto designed to protect the interests of minorities in the assembly, but critics believe it is has been abused and have called for reform.
The News Letter reports a “key proposal” in the talks is to seek approval from the Human Rights Commission on each occasion the petition is used.
The information came from an unnamed source, who also told the News Letter there was proposal the petition must require at least 30 signatures, “one of which must be from a second party”.
The paper also follows up on controversial displays in a republican museum which has curated a large collection of artefacts related to the Troubles.
One of the items is a damaged Army rifle which was reportedly found by a member of the public near the IRA bombing of Narrow Water in 1979, in which 18 soldiers were killed.
Ulster Unionist justice spokesman and former soldier Doug Beattie has called on the PSNI to confiscate the weapon “in order to ensure all evidence has been gathered and a valid decommission certificate has been issued”.
Writing on social media, Mr Beattie pointed out comparisons with a 2015 case when a gun that had been used in several unsolved murders by loyalist paramilitaries was found on public display at the Imperial War Museum.
“In the same way the Seán Graham bookies murder weapon should never be in a museum, neither should this weapon.,” the UUP MLA tweeted.
He said the rifle belonged to the Ministry of Defence and should be returned to it for “disposal”.
With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story