The mother of a teenager killed by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC (now PSNI) police 37 years ago has hit out at British state secrecy after it emerged that files on his murder are to remain under wraps for another 41 years.
Helen Whitters has called for all files on the death of her fifteen-year-old son Paul to be published. However, the file is to remain classified at Britain’s National Archives until 2059. Other files relating to plastic bullet deaths are to remain closed for 84 years, until 2071.
Paul Whitters was struck on the back of his head by a plastic bullet fired by the RUC on April 15 1981. He survived for ten days, dying on April 25. In 2007, then Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan found that the use of the plastic bullet round was “wrong” and “unjustifiable”.
The RUC fired the plastic bullet at point blank range following a riot, and made no attempt to arrest the teen. The RUC account of the killing was subsequently exposed as a fabrication.
Paul was one of eight children who died as a result of being struck by plastic bullets fired by the Crown Forces during the conflict.
Mrs Whitters said: “What right does the government have to withhold information until those who knew and loved Paul are long dead.
“This is about the death of my son at the hands of a RUC constable. This file must be opened and I am appealing to everyone with influence to raise this matter with the Secretary of State.”
A spokeswoman for human rights group, the Pat Finucane Centre, said: “For years families have campaigned for information relating to the use of plastic and rubber bullets, lethal weapons that killed 17 people during the conflict, mostly children. Many more suffered life-changing injuries. It is unacceptable that information is still being withheld.”