Mixed outcome as PSNI allowed appeal to Supreme Court

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The PSNI (formerly RUC) is to take a ruling that the police force lacks the independence to investigate a killing by the British Army to the Supreme Court in London.

Mother of one Jean Smyth-Campbell was killed by a single shot to the head as she sat in a car on the Glen Road in June 1972. Evidence later emerged that an undercover British army unit, the Military Reaction Force (MRF), was involved. Her family have sought an independent investigation into her death.

In 2017 a High Court judge found that her family have been let down for decades by failure after failure in the criminal investigation system.

In March, the PSNI chief lost an appeal against a ruling that he had not shown that a proposed legacy unit within his force had the practical independence for a new investigation.

However, the case is now set to be heard by the Supreme Court following a challenge by the PSNI, which was heard this week.

PSNI chief Simon Byrne had challenged two other similar rulings, but Justice Declan Morgan said it was up to the Supreme Court to decide whether it wanted to take on those cases. One of these involves a group of men who had been subjected to torture in 1971 at the hands of the British Army, the ‘Hooded Men’.

This means the judgment by the Court of Appeal in September has been upheld and an investigation into the treatment of the Hooded Men must now proceed.

Speaking outside court, Grainne Teggart, an Amnesty International campaign manager, said the Hooded Men are now looking forward to an investigation starting.

“After nearly five decades of fighting for justice, these men can now expect an independent, human rights-compliant investigation into their torture to finally get under way,” she said.

“Justice must be delivered. These men deserve answers. Those who sanctioned and carried out their torture must be held accountable, including where possible, prosecutions.”

One of the Hooded Men, Francis McGuigan, added:

“This has been a long road and we’ve had to fight our way down every inch of it - but this is a good day.

“We now look forward to a full investigation into what happened to us. The ministers, members of the MOD and RUC officers responsible for authorising and carrying out our torture need to be held accountable.”

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