Senior judges finish hearing arguments over historic investigations

Senior officers are waiting for Supreme Court justices to decide whether the PSNI is sufficiently independent to carry out investigations into two events during the Troubles in Ulster half a century ago.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 6:35 pm
Francis McGuigan

Seven judges based in London yesterday finished hearing arguments relating to proposed police investigations into the killing of a Catholic woman in 1972 and the treatment of 12 people, known as the “hooded men”, detained in 1971.

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

The seven judges, who oversaw a remote hearing which lasted three days, said they would deliver a ruling on a date to be fixed.

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A barrister representing Mrs Smyth’s sister, Margaret McQuillan, and Francis McGuigan, one of the “hooded men”, told judges that the cases were of the “utmost seriousness”.

Hugh Southey QC said, in a written case outline, that one case concerned the fatal shooting of an “unarmed young mother”, in circumstances “implicating British Army personnel”.

He said the other concerned “state-sanctioned torture and/or inhuman and degrading treatment”.

Barrister Tony McGleenan QC, who represented the PSNI, told judges that the force did not lack the independence to investigate.

Lawyers representing the PSNI had asked the Supreme Court to consider the case, following court hearings in Northern Ireland. Judges heard arguments from lawyers representing Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.