Police negligence claim over IRA bomb is dismissed

Solider in front of Remembrance Day bomb site
Twelve people were killed and dozens more injured in the 1987 bomb attack in Enniskillen [PA Media]

Police cannot be held liable for any alleged failure to ensure the safety of a man injured in the IRA bomb attack in Enniskillen, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Eleven people were killed at the town's Remembrance Sunday ceremony in 1987. A twelfth victim died in 2000 after spending 13 years in a coma.

Joseph Holbeach, who had been standing close to the cenotaph, was among more than 60 others injured.

Senior judges dismissed his claim for negligence after finding police officers did not owe him a duty of care.

Mr Holbeach has suffered from anxiety and depression, and has previously said he tried to take his own life as a result of the events of that day.

Despite recognising it was the IRA who planted the bomb which caused his injuries, he sued the chief constable for alleged negligence.

Lawyers for Mr Holbeach argued police had responsibility for his safety as an attendee at the event.

In his statement of claim, Mr Holbeach said the presence of police influenced his decision to attend the parade amid the threat at the time.

He also alleged it was negligent not to search the nearby Reading Rooms, where the bomb was planted, despite the knowledge the IRA had carried out a bomb attack in Enniskillen town centre earlier that year.

Lord Justice McCloskey acknowledged the mental and physical injuries suffered by the plaintiff.

“He is a living victim of one of the most appalling terrorist atrocities which scarred the recent wretched history of Northern Ireland,” the judge said.

However, he stated Mr Holbeach was aware of the potential for an attack at the location.

The failure to search the Reading Rooms cannot be equated with causing harm or creating a material danger, he added.

Dismissing Mr Holbeach’s appeal against an earlier decision, the judge said: “We have concluded it is not arguable that the plaintiff could establish at trial a relevant assumption of responsibility giving rise to a duty on the part of the RUC to take reasonable care for his safety at the material time.”