Nuala O'Loan to oversee UVF probe

Image caption, Baroness O'Loan has previously investigated allegations of police collusion with loyalists in north Belfast

The former Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan and a barrister are to oversee an investigation into murders and other serious crimes committed by the UVF in north Belfast.

The police said the panel of Baroness O'Loan and Richard Harvey was set up at the request of victims and families.

They will be briefed on the investigation and will act on their behalf.

The move has been welcomed by victims' families.

Operation Ballast, now known as Operation Stafford, was launched after Baroness O'Loan's investigation into allegations of collusion between police officers and the Mount Vernon unit of the UVF.

She found that evidence that some loyalists had been special branch agents and that police had colluded with them to protect their arrest and prosecution.

Greater confidence

The current investigation was criticised by the families of those killed when responsibility was handed over from the Historical Enquiries Team to the PSNI earlier this year.

A statement issued by the PSNI on Thursday said the panel had been set up "to address issues of confidence and to demonstrate in good faith the scale and extent of the investigative work which is being undertaken".

Raymond McCord Senior, whose son was among those murdered and whose complaint prompted Baroness O'Loan's original report, said her involvement would give the families greater confidence in the ongoing police investigation.

The review panel of Baroness O'Loan and respected international barrister Richard Harvey will meet PSNI detectives every eight weeks to review progress in the case and will brief the families of the dead with any relevant information.

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