A decision of the North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) not to prosecute one of their own members for perjury relating to the ‘Stakeknife’ double-agent has come as no surprise, according to legal representatives of his victims.
Four people have been cleared in connection with the allegations, including former IRA member Freddie Scappticci (pictured), who has been widely named as the highly-placed MI5 agent.
‘Stakeknife’ is connected with several murders carried out while operating undercover in the Provisional IRA’s internal security unit.
Scappaticci’s denials, sworn in affidavits between 2003 and 2006, were the subject of a legal challenge against the PPS over its failure to bring a perjury case against the Belfast man, who fled Ireland in 2003.
The direction not to prosecute was said to have been based on evidential reasons and not on a public interest test. That distinction is convenient, because it makes the decision less open to public challenge through the courts.
The decision by the PPS not to prosecute “will come as no surprise” to families of those bereaved or otherwise affected by the activities of Stakeknife, said KRW Law, who act for some of the families.
“It is consistent with similar decision-making on the terrorist activities of other alleged State agents and their handlers,” said Kevin Winters, Senior Partner at KRW.
One of the three individuals to be cleared is understood to be a former deputy director of PPS, Pamela Atchison, while the other two are former members of MI5.
Mr Winters said the decision by the PPS to exonerate the three “needs immediate external, international and independent examination, as there are too many institutional vested interests engaged.”
Speaking on Thursday, he said this decision of the PPS impacts on further pending decisions in other murder cases. However, he said it also raised the prospect of an earlier release of a public report into the activities of Stakeknife.
“The decision may assist Operation Kenova to address the wider systemic issues of British military penetration of the PIRA Internal Security Unit. That will be of some value to those families we act for.
“That is the challenge today for Jon Boutcher, who leads Operation Kenova. If anything the decision today increases the pressure on him to deliver the sort of findings that will provide the families with clear and unambiguous findings which will contribute to their understanding, which for the bereaved, as in hundreds of Conflict-related Legacy cases, is long overdue.”