Retired RUC officer jailed for perverting course of justice in Robert Hamill murder probe

A former police officer, labelled by a judge as a “disgrace to the uniform,” has been jailed for a year for conspiring to pervert the course of justice in relation to the sectarian murder of a man in Portadown in 1997.

Robert Cecil Atkinson, 71 and of Brownstone Road in Portadown, admitted conspiring to pervert the court of justice in the investigation into the sectarian gang attack in the Co Armagh town.

Mr Hamill was attacked by a loyalist mob after a night out. An RUC vehicle with four officers inside was yards away, and this crew has previously been accused of failing to intervene. The young catholic man, a father of three, succumbed to his injuries over a week later. Retired RUC reservist Robert Cecil Atkinson was one of those in the police vehicle that night.

Six people were tried in connection to the murder, but ultimately the case collapsed. Atkinson had given evidence during the trial.

Atkinson admitted providing false information to police who were investigating a phone call made from his home on 27 April, the day of the attack.

Jailing Atkinson at Craigavon Crown Court, Judge Patrick Lynch KC told the pensioner: “It’s a disgrace that you as a serving police officer should stoop so low as to deliberately mislead an investigation which you knew concerned a serious assault you had witnessed.”

Robert Hamill

“Ultimately it turned into a murder enquiry where the son of the household you contacted was a suspect,” the judge told Atkinson, highlighting that the pensioner “is the only person in this courtroom” who could shed light on the contents of that call.Judge Lynch added however that Atkinson has never shown any co-operation and “even now will not shed light on the fateful phone call”.“The public are entitled to expect the highest degree of probity from those entrusted to police and enforce the law,” the judge told Atkinson and declared: “You have been a disgrace to the uniform.”Following sentencing, the family of Robert Hamill called for the findings of the public inquiry into his murder to be made public.Catch up with the latest UTV Live on ITVX

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