The family of a murdered Belfast mother-of-three has won High Court permission to challenge the PSNI for not including her killing in a major investigation into a top British spy in the IRA.
A judge granted leave to seek a judicial review of the Chief Constable’s decision not to have Caroline Moreland’s abduction and shooting form part of the inquiry into the activities of agent Stakeknife, named widely as Freddie Scappaticci.
Mr Justice Colton ruled that police are arguably under a legal obligation to carry out a probe into the circumstances surrounding Ms Moreland’s death.
Ms Moreland, a 34-year-old Catholic, was tortured and killed by the IRA in July 1994 for being an alleged British informer.
Despite an RUC investigation no-one has ever been charged or convicted of her murder.
Her children have issued proceedings in a bid to secure a fully independent probe.
At an earlier hearing it was claimed that west Belfast man Scappaticci was permitted to engage in a murder campaign in order to strengthen his position as a British spy.
It was claimed the relatives of up to 50 victims are waiting for answers.
Scappaticci left Nothern Ireland in 2003 when he was identified by the media as Stakeknife.
Before quitting his home he vehemently denied being the agent.
In October last year Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC called for police to examine Stakeknife’s activities, along with what was known by RUC Special Branch and MI5.
Relatives of those allegedly killed by the IRA’s internal security team, the so-called ‘Nutting Squad’, have backed that move. But they are opposed to the PSNI taking charge amid suspicions of security force collusion.
Chief Constable George Hamilton has decided detectives from an external force should handle the inquiry, with confirmation of who will take charge expected next month.
Any investigation into Stakeknife could last five years and cost up to £35 million.
With Ms Moreland’s murder currently not featuring in the planned inquiry, lawyers for her family claimed it was an unlawful exclusion.
They insisted police are obligated by Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to investigate the killing in the Stakeknife probe.
Counsel for the PSNI argued that the legal challenge was premature and insisted no decision has been made to exclude the Moreland murder.
But Mr Justice Colton held today that the Chief Constable has arguably acted unlawfully by failing to include her death in the examination into the agent.
He also granted leave on points about delay, the requirement to ensure an independent investigation, and an alleged failure to properly involve the next of kin.
Stressing that his decision was no indication of a final outcome in the challenge, Mr Justice Colton listed the case for a further review next month.
Outside court, Kevin Winters, the Moreland family’s solicitor, described the ruling as “a vindication of their fight for justice”.
He also claimed others in the same situation were having to resort to the courts to contest “regressive decisions”.
“There are currently over 40 such challenges pending before the courts with no sign of any let up in the near future,” said Mr Winters.
“Those statistics are a depressing reminder of the ongoing political failure to deal with the past compounded by recent pronouncements about lack of money.”