Northern Ireland

MI5 report on RUC Special Branch to remain secret, watchdog rules

PSNI CREST Image copyright PSNI

A report on policing in Northern Ireland made in the 1970s can stay secret, the Information Commissioner's Office has ruled.

The request, reported in the Irish Times, relates to a 1973 report made by serving MI5 officer Jack Morton.

The report was a review of the functions of RUC Special Branch.

The PSNI refused the request, made in May 2017, because it had been supplied by a body which is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act.

The IC decided the report stay secret after MI5 confirmed it had originally supplied the document to the RUC.

The Commissioner said it had "carefully considered the PSNI's application of section 23(1) to refuse the request".

"The Commissioner's decision is that the PSNI has correctly applied section 23(1) to the information it holds which falls within the scope of the complainant's request."

'Extraordinary'

Journalist Phil Miller, who made the FOI request, intends to appeal against the ICO decision on the 1973 report.

He said he felt it was "extraordinary that nearly half a century after this report was written it is still so sensitive that it has to be kept secret".

His original request focussed on two reports - the 1973 report and another made on Sri Lanka in 1979.

The PSNI said it did not hold the 1979 Morton Report on Sri Lanka and "apologised for not articulating this in its response to the complainant of 8 August 2017".

It maintained its position in relation to the 1973 Morton Report.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke told the BBC: "We are aware of the decision. This is a matter for the Information Commissioner's Office."