Court considers police plans to investigate historic events in Northern Ireland

The sisters of Jean Smyth-Campbell, (left to right) Margaret McQuillan, Ann Silcock, Pat Smith and Sheila Denvir, at Milltown cemetery in Belfast (PA Archive)
2:45am, Mon 14 Jun 2021
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Supreme Court justices are preparing to consider issues relating to whether the Police Service of Northern Ireland is sufficiently independent to carry out investigations into historic events in the region.

Seven judges based in London are due to analyse legal argument about proposed investigations into the killing of a woman in 1972 and the treatment of 12 people, who have become known as the “hooded men”, detained in 1971, at a remote hearing starting on Monday.

Lord Hodge, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Kitchin, Lord Sales, Lord Hamblen, Lord Leggatt and Lord Burrows have been asked to consider issues relating to the shooting of 24-year-old Jean Smyth in Belfast and the detention of the “hooded men” following court hearings in Northern Ireland.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman said judges would consider whether the Legacy Investigations Branch of the Police Service of Northern Ireland was “sufficiently independent” to investigate Mrs Smyth’s death, or other “such deaths”.

The spokeswoman said an investigation had been planned by the Police Service’s Legacy Investigations Branch but, before it began, Mrs Smyth’s sister, Margaret McQuillan, had taken legal action and raised issues relating to independence.

She said judges would also consider whether the Police Service was “sufficiently independent” to carry out “any necessary investigation” into the treatment of the “hooded men”.

Judges are due to hear argument from lawyers representing police, Mrs Smyth’s sister, and Amnesty International.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said the “hooded men” case would be “hugely significant” to “torture victims across the world” and to the ongoing “unresolved issue of legacy of the Troubles”.

She said Amnesty International had supported the “hooded men’s campaign” for decades.

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