Northern Ireland Sundays in Stevens Inquiry libel payouts

The Sunday World and Sunday Life newspapers in Northern Ireland have apologised and paid libel damages to members of the third Stevens Inquiry into allegations of collusion between Loyalist paramilitaries and the security forces.

The Stevens 3 inquiry concluded in 2003 that there had been ‘collusion, the wilful failure to keep records, the absence of accountability, the withholding of intelligence and evidence, and the extreme of agents being involved in murder”.

The libel action had arisen from stories in the 5 November editions of the Sunday Life and Sunday World which suggested that members of the Stevens 3 Inquiry team had failed to act on important information provided to them in the course of their investigations. These included allegations that the team had allowed loyalist killer Mark Haddock to continue his unlawful and murderous activities.

In a statement in open court the publishers of both newspapers said they ‘now accept without reservation that the allegations we published were untrue and that no members of the Stevens 3 Inquiry Team acted unprofessionally or in dereliction of their duty as police officers”.

The statement goes on: ‘The publishers of Sunday Life and Sunday World acknowledge that Lord Stevens and all members of the Stevens 3 Inquiry Team were dedicated police officers of the highest reputation and integrity.

‘Sunday World and Sunday Life apologise to Lord Stevens and to each member of his team for the damage caused to their reputation and for the upset and embarrassment that may have been caused to them.”

The papers have agreed to pay damages and legal costs to the members of the inquiry.

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